Do You Ever Need a Lawyer for an Uncontested Divorce?
In this era of do-it-yourself solutions, you may be contemplating handling your divorce without a divorce attorney’s help. The allure of a DIY divorce can be strong: It appears straightforward, cost-effective, and efficient. And for uncontested divorces, it can be just that.
But are there instances where seeking legal advice or representation is wise? Maybe.
DIY uncontested divorce is possible
An uncontested divorce is a scenario where both parties agree on all aspects of their separation, from child support and custody to alimony and the division of marital assets. It is not a contested divorce because there is no “contest” to be won – hence the name.
What does an uncontested divorce look like? It's a process characterized by cooperation and agreement. Both parties have reached a consensus independently, without needing a divorce court to intervene or make decisions for them. The result is a faster, smoother divorce process that can be less emotionally taxing for everyone involved.
A significant advantage of an uncontested divorce is its potential for cost savings. Because there's no need for a divorce lawyer retainer or drawn-out negotiations, couples can save a considerable amount on legal fees.
Many couples handling an uncontested divorce opt for the do-it-yourself route. This approach can further reduce costs, as it eliminates the need for a lawyer. However, it's crucial to understand what you're undertaking with a DIY divorce. While it can be a cost-effective solution, it also requires careful handling and meticulous attention to detail.
General steps of uncontested DIY divorce
Navigating an uncontested DIY divorce may seem daunting at first, but with a clear understanding of the steps involved, it can be manageable. Here's a quick overview of the general steps involved.
This initial phase involves getting all necessary documents related to your marriage and shared assets. These may include bank statements, marital property deeds, mortgage papers, and information on retirement accounts. You'll also need details about shared debts, such as credit card bills or loans. This thorough documentation will facilitate a fair division of assets and liabilities.
Filing a petition
Once prepared, one spouse (the petitioner) must file a petition for divorce with the local court. This document, often referred to as a divorce complaint or petition for dissolution of marriage, outlines the grounds for divorce and the terms of the separation. It includes details about asset division, child custody, spousal support, and more.
Service of process
Divorce law dictates that after filing, the divorce petition must be formally delivered to the other spouse (the respondent). This step, called "service of process," is a crucial legal requirement to ensure that the respondent is aware of the impending divorce and has an opportunity to respond. The method of service varies by jurisdiction. It may involve a process server, certified mail, or even publication, in certain cases. It must be done even if both parties agree to a divorce unless you file together or the respondent waives service.
Upon receiving the petition, the respondent has a specific timeframe to submit a response, usually around 20 days. If they agree with all the terms outlined in the petition, they can sign an agreement or waiver of service. This step confirms that the divorce is indeed uncontested. If they disagree with any terms, they can file a response detailing their objections. This converts an uncontested divorce into a contested one.
Finalizing the divorce
If all terms are agreed upon, the court can grant the divorce. This generally involves submitting a marital settlement agreement, signed by both parties, to the court. In many uncontested divorces, neither spouse needs to appear in court. The judge reviews the agreement and, if fair and complete, finalizes the divorce.
A key point to remember is that even if a divorce initially seems contested, it can become uncontested through mediation. A mediator can help couples resolve disagreements on specific issues, potentially removing the need for a divorce lawyer.
A mediator can help you resolve minor and major issues such as how to conduct your marital property division and how to share custody of minor children. A mediator helps you reach a divorce settlement without the need for divorce court or a judge.
You can consult a lawyer without the exorbitant fee
The traditional route of "lawyering up" for a divorce often involves significant costs. Typically, this approach requires retaining a lawyer who will represent you throughout all of your divorce proceedings.
An alternative approach offers legal advice without the high cost. For example, you can get hourly legal advice meetings with Hello Divorce at a flat rate. This allows you to access the professional legal advice you need without the financial burden of a full-time attorney.
At Hello Divorce, we offer a range of other services. Whether you're looking for a little guidance or comprehensive assistance, we have a plan that fits your needs and budget. Explore our services today to find the perfect fit for your journey towards a new beginning.