An uncontested divorce is one in which both spouses agree on relevant issues such as division of property, child custody/support, and alimony.
When people think of divorce, many usually envision a nasty battle in court when dividing property. However, what they may not know is that most divorces are uncontested and can also be completed as an online divorce. What this means is that the parties involved are able to settle their differences without even going to trial.
In an uncontested divorce, the spouses reach mutual agreement on relevant issues like alimony, child custody, child support, and asset division. The court doesn’t get involved because the two parties manage to settle all their issues without litigation. Because of this, uncontested divorces usually save significant time and money compared to contested divorces.
By contrast, two spouses go through a contested divorce process when they’re unable to reach an agreement on issues even after trying alternatives like mediation. When this happens, the divorce case then goes before the court where the judge (or jury) makes the final call on each issue. Whereas having an attorney isn’t always necessary for an uncontested divorce, getting an attorney for a contested divorce is probably a prudent measure. This is because the issues involved are usually complex and may involve navigation of technical legal procedures. In general, contested divorces tend to be much more stressful, take much longer to complete, and also cost more due to attorney fees.
Filing for Divorce There are many forms that people may use to file, but at the end of the day, they have the same basic information. This document is called the Original Petition for divorce. In this form, you are identifying yourself, your spouse, the reason for divorce, how property will be distributed (if any), etc. It is also here that you should include your desire to have your name changed to your maiden name. You may need to include a Health Insurance Availability form, UCCJEA form, and any standing orders your county may have. Filing fees for this can set you back around $300 typically. Serving your Spouse Once filed, your ex-spouse must be notified of the filing. This can be done through the local constable at the court, a private process server, or this can be waived by your ex-spouse. With most uncontested divorces, service of process is waived, but if you end up having to do so it will run you about $100. After your ex-spouse is served, this begins their opportunity to respond or dispute your petition. Reconcile Waiting Period Sometimes people file for divorce as a way to let their spouse know that they're serious. In some cases, people end up reconciling, getting back together, and wanting to dismiss their case. That's exactly what the purpose of this waiting period is for. Texas requires a minimum of 60 days from filing before any divorce to be finalized. Finalize Your Divorce After 60 days, you must draft up your Final Decree. Again, some of these forms are free online. These are basically forms that restate what your petition stated. After you draft up your decree you must appear before your court and prove up your decree. This means entering testimony in front of the judge indicating you are who you say you are, you understand what finalizing a divorce means, and that everything you've filed is true and correct. Once this is done, the court will sign.
Ground One (1) Either party, at the time of the contract, was and still is naturally impotent and incapable of procreation. Ground Two (2) Either party has knowingly entered into a second marriage, in violation of a previous marriage, still subsisting. This is also known as "bigamy". Ground Three (3) Either party has committed adultery. *Note: There are certain defenses to this ground. Ground Four (4) Willful or malicious desertion or absence of either party, without a reasonable cause, for one (1) whole year. Ground Five (5) Being convicted of any crime that, by the laws of the state, renders the party infamous. Ground Six (6) Being convicted of a crime that, by the laws of the state, is declared to be a felony, and sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary. Ground Seven (7) Either party has attempted the life of the other, by poison or any other means showing malice. Ground Eight (8) Refusal, on the part of a spouse, to remove with that person's spouse to this state, without a reasonable cause, and being willfully absent from the spouse residing in Tennessee for two (2) years. Ground Nine (9) The woman was pregnant at the time of the marriage, by another person, without the knowledge of the husband. Ground Ten (10) Habitual drunkenness or abuse of narcotic drugs of either party, when the spouse has contracted either such habit after marriage. Ground Eleven (11) The husband or wife is guilty of such cruel and inhuman treatment or conduct towards the spouse as renders cohabitation unsafe and improper, which may also be referred to in pleadings as inappropriate marital conduct. Note: This is one of the most popular grounds for divorce in Tennessee. Ground Twelve (12) The husband or wife has offered such indignities to the spouse's person as to render the spouse's position intolerable, and thereby forced the spouse to withdraw; Ground Thirteen (13) The husband or wife has abandoned the spouse or turned the spouse out of doors for no just cause, and has refused or neglected to provide for the spouse while having the ability to so provide; Ground Fourteen (14) Irreconcilable differences between the parties. *Note: This ground is considered a 'no-fault' ground. Ground Fifteen (15) For a continuous period of two (2) or more years that commenced prior to or after April 18, 1985, both parties have lived in separate residences, have not cohabited as man and wife during such period, and there are no minor children of the parties.
Filing a Complaint for Divorce In order to officially begin a divorce, a Complaint for Divorce must be filed with the Court. Filing for divorce requires submitting a legal document, known as a “Complaint for Divorce" in the appropriate Circuit or Chancery Court of the appropriate County. Service of Process The person who files for divorce must prove that the divorce petition was given to the other spouse through legal means. Often a sheriff's deputy, constable, or private process service assist with serving the other spouse; however, it is also common for the spouse to formally waive service if the divorce is uncontested and a formal Marital Dissolution Agreement has been signed. Temporary Orders If necessary, a judge may give “temporary orders” that tell you what to do until a final divorce order is issued. Temporary orders cover may cover issues such as child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, property, payment of bills and insurance premiums, and who may live in the marital residence. Filing an Answer to the Complaint The other spouse has the right to respond to the Complaint for Divorce. If they disagree, they can dispute the grounds or other allegations, such as proposed asset division, child custody, alimony, child support, attorney's fees, or other issues. If both parties agree to the terms of divorce, they have an uncontested divorce. This is the fastest and least expensive route and may allow you to skip certain steps listed herein. . Mediation & Negotiation Mediation is a process where the parties and you attorneys will meet with a mediator, sometimes all together in the same room and sometimes in separate rooms. The mediator is a neutral third party who is trained to help facilitate settlements and resolve the issues related to the divorce. During this process, the parties and attorney will negotiate, through the mediator, to hopefully reach a fair settlement. Discovery Discovery is the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit, such as a divorce, in which each party investigates the facts of a case, through the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, by obtaining evidence from the opposing party and witnesses. This may be completed through various discovery devices, such as submitting interrogatories, which are written questions that must be answered under oath by the opposing party, or conducting a deposition, which is when a person appears at a specified time and place and gives sworn testimony --under oath, with a court reporter present so that a record is made. This is typically one of the most expensive aspects of a case. Trial If you can’t resolve the issues before, during, or after mediation through informal negotiations, the divorce will go to trial for the judge to decide on all of the issues after hearing testimony and reviewing proof. Going to court takes longer, costs more money and has unpredictable results. Generally, the absolute most contested and hostile cases are the ones that go this far, as most cases settle prior to this phase.
Complaint for Divorce A Complaint for Divorce is first document filed with the court. It puts your spouse (and the Court) on notice that you are seeking a divorce from your spouse. You will also need a summons issued by the Court. The summons, along with the complaint for divorce (and notice of the statutory restraining order) must be served on your spouse. Be careful in preparing your own complaint for divorce; Tennessee law requires specific things to be included in the complaint. COBRA Notice A COBRA Notice is a notice given to your spouse regarding health insurance coverage. Filing a COBRA notice is a requirement in divorce proceedings in Tennessee, regardless of whether neither spouse has health insurance on the other, or whether neither party has health insurance. However, it is most important in situations where one spouse is carrying health insurance on the other. If one spouse is on the other spouse's health insurance, a COBRA Notice notifies the spouse that 30 days after the divorce is finalized, their insurance will cancel unless the coverage has a COBRA provision and the spouse takes steps toward COBRA protection. A COBRA Notice is required to be served on the other spouse and filed with the Court. Marital Dissolution Agreement A Marital Dissolution Agreement (MDA) is a required document in order to finalize an uncontested divorce. It is further required to divide all marital assets and debts. It is also the document that addresses alimony, or spousal support. Although the document seems simple, there are provisions (such as a notice regarding creditors) that are required to be included. It is worth the relatively small cost to hire an attorney to prepare this document correctly as opposed to the high cost of hiring an attorney to fix this document. Permanent Parenting Plan A Permanent Parenting Plan (PPP) is only necessary in the event that there are minor children born of the marriage. However, the PPP is a fairly complicated document. Attempting to prepare this document without an attorney could prove costly, even if no problems occur until years down the road. A blank PPP is generally available in the Chancery/Circuit Court Clerk's Office. Child Support Worksheet Child Support worksheets are only necessary in the event that there are minor children born of the marriage. These are required to be attached to the Permanent Parenting Plan and made in accordance with the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines. Parenting Class Certificate Filing a Parenting Class Certificate with the Court is only necessary if there are minor children born of the marriage. This document is to notify the Court that you have completed a seminar for divorcing parents on how to separate divorce issues from parenting issues. This course is four hours in length and provides guidance on how to communicate with your kids, ex-spouse, and ex-spouse in the presence of the kids. Agreed Order to Set Final Hearing This is a document that needs to be signed by both parties indicating the day an time that the court will hold your final hearing and finalize your divorce (so long as you have properly prepared and filed all necessary documents with the Court). Final Decree of Divorce This is the document that the Judge signs to finalize the divorce on the day of the final hearing. It is required in all divorces and must contain specific language. Once the Complaint for Divorce has been on file for 60 days (90 days if there are minor children born of the marriage), the COBRA Notice has been filed and served, the MDA has been signed and filed with the court, the PPP and child support worksheet have been signed and filed with the Court (if minor children of the marriage), the Parenting Class Certificate has been filed with the Court, and the Agreed Order to Set has been signed by the Judge, the Final Decree of Divorce should be signed by both parties and filed with the Court prior to the final hearing. It is important to hire an attorney to prepare this document, as specific language included could prevent costly lawyer's fees in the future (common theme: spend a little now or a lot later). Certificate of Divorce A certificate of Divorce is filled out prior to the Final Hearing and given to the Court after the divorce is finalized. The information therein is statistical in nature and given to the department of public health-division of vital records.
Attorney Ian M. Richetti of Crosson & Richetti, LLC discusses how to get a divorce. It is important to know the court system, and what is involved. If you are considering a divorce, watch this first.
Willingness to Compromise The willingness or unwillingness of the parties to compromise contribute to the costs of divorce. TAlk to your spouse to see if you can agree on the issues between you and a fair and equitable resolution of those issues. IF both of you are willing to adress the issues, it is possible to negotiate a settlement you can both live with. Dealing with Emotion If you and your spouse harbor rancor toward each other or if either of you harbors rancor toward the other, then it is not likely you will be able to avoid contested litigation, at least until clearer heads are able to prevail. In short you will not e able to get your divorce inexpensively, so long as hurt feelings take priority in your mind or that of your spouse. The only way to achieve a settlement in those circumstances is total capitulation, or if both parties set aside their feelings and bitterness in order to address the issues fairly, equitably and reasonably. The Right Attorney Find a divorce attorney who is willing to help you try to find an amicable resolution of your disputes. You want an experienced attorney who has a good reputation for trying to settle divorce cases while at the same time demonstrating the ability to try successfully those cases which must be tried. When you think you have developed a list of potential attorneys, investigate them, heck out what clients sayu about the attorney. Narrow the Issues for Litigation Years ago, I stepped into a long-pending divorce to finalize it for a client. The divorce ws stalled in the court after her husband's attorney withdrew from the case. The client's prior attorney had slowed the case to languish without giving it the attention required to obtain a resolution. The client and her husband agreed on Many laisses, custody, child support, division of real estate and division of debt. The one area that could not be resolved by agreement was the husband's pension. He simply was not willing to give her any of his pension. I suggested we finalize the agreement on those areas which were agreed and that we agree to submit the issue of the pension to the court for decision. Husband signed off on the settlement. At the final hearing for divorce, the sole issue for the court to determine was division of the pension and took all of 20 minutes. The lesson is simple, resolve those issues which you can resolve and litigate only those issues which must be litigated. Alternative Dispute Resolution Sometimes you need help finding the middle ground for agreement and compromise. This is where mediation or a judicial settlement conference can be helpful. The mediator is trained to assist people in resolving conflict. The judicial settlement conference is helpful to get recalcitrant people to reach an agreement by showing them what a judge thinks of the facts and likely outcome of litigation which at the same time guiding them to settle. There are three situations where alternate dispute resolution may be desirable:: 1. When you and your spouse are motivated to settle due to time constraints, expenses or other factors, 2. When it would be helpful or expedient to have a neutral evaluation of your case or your spouse's case in a private setting or your lawyer thinks that "reality testing" by the settlement judge would be helpful in precipitating a settlement. 3. When you ad your spouse differ substantially in your opinion on valuation or support issues. Participating in a judicial settlement conference is deemed making a good faith effort to resolve the case. The judge is there to assist in achieving settlement and has no authority to try or to decide disputes. The settlement proceedings are confidential and nothing said during the settlement conference or prepared for use in the conference is admissible at trial, unless the statement or document is independently admissible. The long and the short of it is your divorce can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you and your spouse want to make it. Cooperation, willingness to compromise and the golden rule will go a long way in reducing the costs of your divorce in money and in stress.
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