California made international headlines in 1970 when then-governor Ronald Reagan signed the passage of no-fault divorce for that state. Other states soon followed, and today, no-fault divorce is allowed in all states. This has created a new norm of lower-conflict, or uncontested divorce (which is legally different than no-fault). In fact, the vast majority of divorces are settled out of court, and are uncontested divorces.
This is good news: Unlike years before, when a spouse had to prove good reason to divorce their spouse, or find legal fault with their husband or wife, and litigation was nearly always inevitable, today couples have the option to divorce amicably, quickly and affordably — and the vast majority do.
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Here is what you need to know.
- What is an uncontested or no contest divorce?
- When you should consider an uncontested divorce
- Why an uncontested divorce is best for your children
- How to get an uncontested divorce
- Do I have to go to court for an uncontested divorce?
- Best no contest divorce service for filing an uncontested divorce
What is an uncontested or no contest divorce? What does uncontested or mutual mean in a divorce?
In most basic terms, uncontested divorces are those in which the spouses agree on all terms, and do not go to court to resolve them. Technically, you may have fought bitterly over various terms, either between the two of you, or accompanied by lawyers or a mediator, but by the time the divorce papers and settlement agreement are filed in court, it is a settled matter.
In contrast, in a contested divorce you go to trial to have a judge settle terms of the divorce.
Uncontested divorce can be synonymous with many other terms:
- No-fault divorce
- Mutual consent divorce
- Amicable divorce
- Friendly divorce
Basics of uncontested divorce (or divorce with mutual consent)
If you and your spouse are generally in agreement that you both want the divorce, and what the terms of the divorce should be regarding the children, assets, and ongoing financial terms, you have a few choices:
- Sit down at the kitchen table, hash out the details, sign the papers and file for your divorce yourselves in your local courthouse. Many couples in this camp also have an attorney look over the papers to make sure they are filled out properly and all major considerations are addressed. An online divorce papers service can be helpful.
- Each of you hire your own attorney, and the four of your duke out a settlement agreement through phone calls, email and perhaps in-person meetings. The papers are signed and filed, and you are divorced.
- You and your spouse work with a mediator to sort out the terms of a settlment. The mediator, an attorney or you can file the papers.
The road to divorce may not be linear. For example, you may start out at the kitchen table, but realize you can’t come to terms on your own, so hire a mediator to help settle matters. Or, perhaps one of you is all set on going to court, everyone lawyers up, but then you both realize that is expensive and stupid and you settle. Etc.
When you should consider an uncontested divorce
Pros of an uncontested divorce
There are many positives of uncontested divorce:
- Much, much lower cost
- Less stress
- You likely will have more control over your divorce and life after — opposed to being at the mercy of a judge, court dates, and any other professionals involved including attorneys, psychologists, guardian ad litems, forensic accountats, etc.
- Less trauma for your children — and the whole family
- Less conflict with your spouse during divorce is found to have better co-parenting long-term
Cons of an uncontested divorce
Some divorcing spouses want to make their soon-to-be ex’s life hell, and a contested divorce does that (though divorce negotiations are nearly always painful in varrying degrees).
There are some instances when you may need to go to trial to finalize your divorce, and an uncontested divorce would make you vulnerable to abuse or put your children in real danger. This includes if your ex suffers from addiction, severe mental illness, there is risk they will abduct the children, some instances of financial abuse in which a trial may make fiscal sense, or high-asset couples who have complicated finances.
Uncontested divorce with children: Why an uncontested divorce is best for your children
Less fighting over terms of your divorce means the pain of the process will be over quicker for the whole family. It also means that you are more likely to co-parent well, which is critical.
Equal and amicable co-parenting is best for children according to dozens of peer-reviewed scientific papers. It is also best for gender equality. My survey of 2,279 single moms found a direct correlation between time-sharing equality for separated and divorced parents, and single moms’ income and overall wellbeing. Also, child support compliance is higher when both parents are equally involved with the kids.
How to get an uncontested divorce
Uncontested divorce process
The good news is most divorcing couples can and do file their own divorce papers, which you can get for free at your local court house, and pay the local court fees — which are typically between $200 and $300, depending on where you live and a few other factors.
Uncontested divorce steps
If you plan to negotiate and file your own divorce papers without an outside professional like an attorney or mediator, the steps in divorce are easy:
- Get divorce papers for your location.
- Settle terms of divorce with your spouse.
- Fill out the papers, and have them notarized.
- File the papers in your local court house.
Do I have to go to court for an uncontested divorce?
In some states, one spouse must first file the papers, have them served to the other spouse, who must respond through the courts . In some states, you must appear in court in person for the divorce to be finalized, while other states allow for this to happen remotely — including the online filing of divorce papers by the petitioner, or a third-party like an attorney.
How do I prepare for an uncontested divorce? What is part of an uncontested divorce checklist requirements?
Each state has its own protocol and requirements, but be prepared to address these uncontested divorce requirements:
- General identification for each spouse: Name, date of birth, address, social security number, etc.
- Proof of residence and length of residence in the state.
- Some states require a waiting period or required separation time. Be prepared to prove this by way of lease records.
- Agreement to terms of the divorce including:
What happens at an uncontested divorce hearing?
An uncontested divorce hearing is typically sort and matter-of-fact. When you appear, you will present the signed settlement agreement and divorce papers.
The judge may ask you a few questions, but is most likely to address a few formalities, including that you feel the settlement is fair, that you did not agree to it under threat or influence, and that it was indeed you who signed the papers.
The judge will then declare s/he has granted your divorce, sign a written divorce decree, and let you know next steps, which may include waiting to receive copies of the signed decree by mail — again, this will vary by state and sometimes county.
The judge will not read your agreement, or make any judgement as to whether either of you got a good or raw deal.
What questions are asked in an uncontested divorce?
How long does an uncontested divorce take?
The length of time from deciding to an uncontested divorce, to finalizing the divorce depend on various factors:
- How quickly you can come to terms of settlement with your spouse.
- State laws that may require a wait period or legal separation.
- Backlog in the courts — which is common thanks to the COVID pandemic.
How much does a simple, uncontested divorce cost?
If you collect the divorce papers yourself, do not hire an attorney, and and file yourself, you pay only the filing fees, which are typically between $200 and $300 depending on where you live.
What is the best uncontested online divorce company?
There are dozens and dozens of online divorce paper companies that market to people going through an uncontested divorce. Our No. 1 recommendation is 3 Step Divorce. You can read our review, and benefits include:
- A+ Better Business Bureau rating
- Rate of $299 includes 100% of papers, customer service and filing instructions (some competitors charge extra for any add-on services, which runs the rate up)
- Payment plans. Get started for $84.
- $50 rebate if you file the same day.
- Great customer reviews, including for customer service
Uncontested divorce papers
Find divorce papers for your state here:
Best no contest divorce service for filing an uncontested divorce?
Bottom line: How do you get a divorce if both parties agree? File with 3StepDivorce.com now >>