I'm going to be real brief today because I know everyone is busy and out there trying to stay safe. But, what I want to talk to folks about are uncontested divorces. Now, we’ve been getting a lot of phone calls lately about uncontested divorces and usually how the telephone call goes is that one side tells me “Oh, this is going to be pretty simple, we don't have much stuff together and you know he’s pretty much or she's pretty much in agreement with everything, we just want to get this divorce done as quickly as possible.”
Now, one of the first questions I ask is “well, how long have you been married?” and for any marriage over five years I'm really skeptical that the uncontested divorce is the way to go. Just think about it, just think about how much happens in a year in your life and multiply that by 5; and while you're married you’re accumulating stuff, you're accumulating debt, you’re accumulating property, some of you may have children, life just becomes complicated the longer that you're married. So, I genuinely hope that most divorces are uncontested because that means that folks are able to resolve things at the lowest level and get their divorce done as quickly and efficiently and economically as possible as well. So I understand why for most folks they think that that's the first alternative is an uncontested divorce, and perhaps it should be.
Now, where usually the uncontested divorce turns is where the marriage is a longer term marriage, I say anything over 5 years but I have seen contested divorces for marriages that were less than a year old. But typically when you reach the five-year mark you're really probably looking at a contested divorce. Especially when there are children involved or a lot of assets that were accumulated during the marriage and things like a house and then you're looking at debt, retirement accounts, things of that nature, then you’re looking more like a contested divorce then uncontested.
Now, I know contested or litigated sounds like it's scary and it shouldn't be because I treat the contested divorce as if they’re uncontested, it's just a different pathway to getting the divorce. Now, when someone files for contested divorce it ratches up the seriousness of the divorce process rather than just doing it informally on your own by finding some paperwork on the internet, filling out some paperwork, getting it notarized and filing it with the court, the uncontested route is an informal way to do it. But when you file a contested divorce then you’re looking at, you can find that paperwork yourself, file it yourself, and then there's some formalities that take place as far as getting the other person notice and they have to respond.
So, what I tell folks with uncontested divorces is if you think that you're a hundred percent sure and the other person is in agreement with you then yes, that is the route that you should take, go the uncontested route, have a competent attorney fill out the paperwork, make sure it's done right sign everything without filing in court and then once all signatures are obtained have that attorney file it and then you're done. But that's a matter of expediency if you want to do it that way, because if you do it and you're uncertain (if you do it meaning the uncontested divorce), if you do it and you're not certain that the other party is ready to get divorced but you drop all the paperwork and you think you divided up what they want and what you want and then you send it to them in an email and you mail it to them and then you don't hear from them from 30 days, 60 days, six months, a year and you're like, “man I wish I was divorced but I sent them that paperwork and I never heard from him about it”, that's because he's not obligated to respond to you because it's not a contested matter at this point.
So if you want action and you want to get a divorce but you're not sure about whether or not that the other party will agree with the terms that you want to lay out as the terms of the settlement agreement, then you should file because when you file the other party has to participate in the process and then you're not waiting months or years to find out whether or not you're going to get divorced, it is just a matter of when you're going to get divorced.