Normally after everyone tells us their entire background, the building blocks of our case, we go into the different options they can take. We first ask them if it will be contested or uncontested. Most people have done their research before coming in to see us and know the difference between the two. There are a few times that we have to really define the terms for our clients. Almost 90% of the time the client states, “Oh, this will definitely be uncontested.” The truth of it all is that no one really wants to fight because they don’t want to pay for it, and they don’t want the extra stress. Sadly though, even with the benefits of an uncontested divorce (please check out the previous blog “Benefits of An Uncontested Divorce”) the drama of it all hasn’t even begun. They say it’ll be uncontested, and then it ends up a contested case hiding under the ruse of an uncontested agreement that is ever changing. Here are a few tips as to whether your case will be a true uncontested or contested case.
1. It’s a starter divorce. (Check out Friday’s blog for a better description on this one). In short, this is a made up term. Everyone’s heard of the starter marriage, the starter wife, or the starter house. It’s where you make your mistakes. It’s a short term stop with little or no real roots. In a starter divorce, usually, there isn’t much property to be divided. The marriage hasn’t been going on long enough to call for alimony, and there are rarely children involved.
2. You have an agreement that both of you agree to. This is the trick. You must speak to your spouse, sit down with them, and come to an actual agreement. Everyone says they agree until the agreement is actually drawn up, and the other person realizes the finality of it all (or unless they see this agreement for the first time). This is normally when they either start doing additional research, or they find another lawyer who wants to make a few extra bucks. Then, all of a sudden, the agreement becomes a disagreement. The parties begin nitpicking each other and fighting over hidden agendas.
3. You can agree to disagree. This is similar to the second tip. You have to be able to cooperate and come together with an agreement. Whether or not you can actually stand each other, you have to agree on this one matter. If you cannot agree on something as simple as who gets the Bath & Body Works’ candles, it is contested.
4. Your spouse has seen the agreement that they have “agreed” to. It is rare that someone will be cooperative and agreeable if someone shows up and says, “This is what I’ve had the lawyer draw up. I’ve got your dogs in my backseat, with all of the dishes, and Christmas decorations. Please sign.” Don’t wait for the day they are supposed to sign the agreement to be the first day they see the agreement.
5. Your spouse knows their rights. If they know their rights (meaning they’ve seen an attorney or done their own pro se research), and they sign them away anyway, that’s fine. However, if your spouse doesn’t know what they should be getting, and they take the agreement to another attorney to get their opinion on the papers, then the agreement might just end up contested.
6. You agree on everything except… No, that’s contested. There are no exceptions to an uncontested agreement. This was a trick! (Hence, the 5 tips that it’s an Uncontested… not 6).
Uncontested divorces are great. They save time, money, and your blood pressure. The thing is, not everyone is made out to be able to agree to everything without the help of an attorney to look out for their rights and help guide them in the right direction. Sometimes it may take a bit of time longer if it’s contested, but this agreement and subsequent Divorce Decree is something that you’ll have to live with. Don’t go with uncontested if it isn’t the right route to take. Just because an uncontested looks appealing, don’t force it if it isn’t right for your situation. That could end up costing you a lot more in the end. Also, along those same lines, please don’t go pro se (without an attorney at all) either.