A lot can be decided about your divorce case based on whether it is an agreed (uncontested) or contested divorce. An agreed divorce means a settlement agreement, which could save you time and money by avoiding court. A contested divorce, on the other hand, means you and your ex-spouse cannot agree to the terms of the dissolution of marriage – leading to a divorce case that requires a trial. This can be more difficult and take much longer.
Agreed or Uncontested Divorce vs. Contested Divorce in California
When someone files for divorce in California, the other party has the chance to respond to the divorce petition. If the recipient agrees to all of the proposed terms of the divorce as set forth by the filing party (petitioner), he or she can respond with an acceptance of the petition as-is or not respond at all, which would result in a default divorce. This will give the petitioner all of his or her desired terms and finalize the divorce.
It is much more common, however, for a recipient to respond with issues or specific terms that he or she contests, or does not agree with. In this situation, the two parties will have the chance to communicate back and forth (directly or through attorneys) to try to compromise or reach an agreement on the divorce terms before the case has to go to court for a judge to decide.
For a divorce settlement to be reached, all of the major elements of the dissolution must be agreed upon by both parties. This includes child custody, child support, property division and alimony. If an agreement is reached, it is known as an agreed or uncontested divorce. A judge will typically sign off on the proposed plan as set out by the parties, finalizing the divorce. Otherwise, it is a contested divorce that may have to proceed to trial.
Benefits of an Agreed or Uncontested Divorce
If you are going through a dissolution of marriage or considering filing for divorce in California, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse should generally strive for an agreed divorce. An uncontested divorce has several attractive benefits over a contested divorce, including:
- Saves time on the legal process (no waiting for a court date).
- Lowers litigation costs and attorney’s fees due to an easier and shorter legal process.
- Reduces emotional stress on you and your family since you don’t have to go through a trial.
- Gives you control over the outcome of your divorce case, avoiding an unpredictable judgment.
- Avoids California’s community property (50/50 division) law with a custom arrangement.
- Remains private between the parties rather than being entered into public record.
While there are advantages to an agreed divorce, it is not always possible for a couple to reach an agreement on the key matters of the split. Sometimes, a couple has no choice but to go to trial with a divorce case.
How Can You Increase Your Odds of an Agreed Divorce?
Most couples, judges and lawyers prefer to settle divorce cases out of court. You may be able to increase your odds of reaching an agreed or uncontested divorce settlement with your ex-spouse with assistance from an experienced attorney. A lawyer can communicate with your ex-spouse’s lawyer to come to a settlement agreement that works for both parties. A lawyer can also represent you during alternative dispute resolution, such as divorce mediation. This can improve the likelihood of reaching a compromise.
Keeping an open mind and knowing how to communicate effectively with your ex-spouse during the divorce process can also increase your chances of having an uncontested divorce. Note, however, that an agreed divorce is not always possible and may not be in the best interests of one or both parties, depending on the circumstances. This may be true in a case involving domestic violence, for example.