An uncontested divorce is one where both the husband and wife can agree on how to divide all of their assets and their debts, and if they have children, how to share custody and child support.
An uncontested divorce is one in which both spouses agree on how to divide assets and debts, decide on support amounts, and work out parenting issues. Once the spouses reach those agreements, they can complete their divorce paperwork and get a judgment of divorce, often without even having to go to court.
An uncontested divorce costs much less than a court battle or even a negotiated solution that relies on lawyers to do the negotiating. Because you pay a lawyer for all time spent on your case, including preparing documents, phone calls, emails, and court time, it can get very expensive very quickly.
Uncontested divorce is also usually more efficient. Depending on your state’s waiting period and how long it takes you to work out the details of a settlement, it could be a matter of just a few months.
These advantages are great, but the most important advantage of an uncontested divorce is that it is so much less emotionally draining for you, your spouse, and your children than a contested case. If you have children, working cooperatively and establishing a decent relationship with the other parent will affect your quality of life for years to come. On the other hand, a bitter divorce battle can poison that relationship and cause lifelong tension and strain for your children.
There are generally three big issues in divorce: property, support, and child custody.
Property. You and your spouse must decide how you will divide your property, including real estate, bank and retirement accounts, pensions, and investments. You also need to decide who will pay outstanding debts.
Custody. Child custody includes both legal custody, which means the right to make decisions about things like your child’s education and medical care, and physical custody, which is the right to have the child live with you. Each type of custody can be either joint or sole. Joint legal custody is very common, as parents share decision-making for the kids. Joint physical custody doesn’t necessarily mean equal time with both parents, but it does mean the child spends significant time at each home.
Child support. Georgia’s child support guidelines can serve as a starting point in your discussions—that’s certainly where the judge will start if you and your spouse aren’t able to agree on support.
If it’s possible, the least expensive and most efficient way to come up with a settlement is for you and your spouse to sit down and negotiate agreements on property and parenting. But many couples find this challenging in the difficult period after deciding to separate.
Fortunately, help is available in the form of mediation. A family law mediator is a neutral third party who can help you negotiate a settlement that works for both of you. Mediators don’t have the power to impose a decision, but they’re trained to help you reach a fair agreement you both can live with. You can also hire a consulting attorney to help you plan for the mediation sessions and to review a proposed settlement.
If you want a more structured procedure, or if it makes more sense to you to have an attorney who’s looking out for your interests, explore “collaborative divorce.” Each spouse hires an attorney, and all four of you work together to settle things without going to court. The twist to collaborative divorce is that if negotiations fail, both spouses must hire different lawyers to handle the court case. This creates a powerful incentive to settle, because of the cost involved in getting new lawyers up to speed.
Once the big issues have been worked out through negotiation, mediation, or collaboration, one spouse must file a document, called a complaint, in the local Superior Court; you’ll also need to file your agreements as part of the divorce process. Then it is simply a process of waiting at least 31 days and appearing at a final hearing. You can get information about how to prepare the paperwork yourselves from the court clerk’s office or the website for your local court. If you’ve used a mediator or collaborative attorney, the lawyers will probably prepare the paperwork for you.
Please see Georgia Divorce & Family Laws for in-depth information on divorce and related issues.