Settling divorce without using the court is considered uncontested divorce.
This is a great way to handle such a stressful time in your life and will help you save time and money, however, there are many things you should know when dealing with uncontested divorce settlements.
Uncontested Divorce Overview:
There are two things that can occur to make divorce considered “uncontested.”
- If you and your spouse agree on how to handle property, money and parenting issues
- or your spouse does not disagree with you on your requests and is not likely to file forms in court saying so.
Uncontested divorce is not for everyone. If you are in a serious domestic violence or child abuse case or those where one spouse is hiding assets or diverting income, uncontested divorce is not the best route. Uncontested cases do not require the courts involvement and can be handled by mail or by brief contact with the judge but it will become “contested” when you and your spouse disagree on one or more issues. Your spouse will need to file a Response to your Petition stating that he or she disagrees and from there, it will be up to you to schedule a hearing or a trial date so the judge can hear both sides and resolve the disagreement. A case can start off as contested and then become uncontested or vice versa. In any situation, it’s best to consult with an experienced family attorney who can help you with your specific case since each case is unique.
Whether you have an uncontested divorce or a contested divorce, the process involves the court because getting married is a binding legal action and ending it requires the same process. Additionally, you cannot re-marry until you have the official judgement from the court that dissolves your marriage. There are a lot of forms and the process can be complicated, make sure to consult an experienced divorce lawyer who can help you.
How Long? What is the Cost? And Process:
California is one of the few states that requires a waiting period of 6 months after you file your petition for divorce and it can linger up to 5 years depending on the pace of the process. Once you file and serve your petition, your spouse has 30 days to answer it, but your divorce attorney can waive it if necessary. If you and your spouse do not have a way to resolve the issues, you have up to six months to reach one, making the case uncontested. Keep in mind, having children complicates the process and it’s best you consult with an experienced attorney to help guide you through the process. If custody is an issue, the court mandates that you attend mediation first. The first step is to fill out and file your response to the petition. It asks for information about the length of your marriage and basic information about the relationship. Remember, you have 30 days to file your response and the days begin counting from the date you were served with the petition.
There are additional forms you have to submit if you have children but once completed make sure to submit all forms. Your divorce lawyer can assist you in completing it properly. Make sure to make two copies of all forms, one copy for you and one copy for your spouse with the original going to the court. Once you turn in your forms to the court clerk, you will be required to pay a filing fee. Generally speaking, the fee costs $435 but can be waived if necessary with additional forms. Once you serve a copy of the response through mail or in person, you need to file your proof of service.
The next step is the fill out and serve your financial disclosure forms no later than 60 days after you file your response. California law requires that you and your spouse give each other written information about what you own and what you owe about your income and expenses. The point of disclosure is to make sure that you and your spouse are aware of everything financially so you can divide your property and debts equally. Keep in mind you cannot get divorced if you do not exchange your disclosures. Once you fill out your disclosure forms, attach your tax returns, have your forms reviewed, and file the declaration regarding service of declaration of disclosure, you will be well on your way with finalizing the settlement.
Who are great candidates for uncontested divorce in California?
For couples who have a strong relationship free of anger and bitterness towards each other, uncontested divorce is a great option. If they are able to listen to logical, legal advice with the ultimate goal in mind, uncontested divorce is the best way to go. It is also great for those who don’t want to pay a lot of money for divorce and prefer to expedite the process and move on with their lives .
Child Custody and Parenting Time in an uncontested divorce in California:
Child custody, whether in a contested or uncontested case can become extremely emotional and difficult. There are many factors and implications of a divorce that can affect a child and parents must keep the best interests of the child in mind at all times. The best way to resolve custody cases if for the parents to meet and discuss when it’s best for visitation and regular contact given everyone’s schedule. California family law favors joint legal and physical custody arrangements as long as it’s in best interest for the child so the settlement process should begin with that. Father’s specifically feel like their options are limited but each parent has the same benefit. There are a factor of items that need to be discussed among the parents such as each parent’s work schedule or outside-home commitments and what impact that has on the children, the child’s school and extracurricular activities, the distance the parents intend to live from each other, and any concerns regarding the child’s health to name a few. There are other factors that should be considered for discussion such as participation in religious activities, therapy and health counseling, selection of a healthcare provider and changing the last name of the child.
Child support and uncontested divorce in California:
Child support typically lasts until your child is 18 years of age. If the parent extends child support beyond that, they should do so with the help of an experienced lawyer. Generally speaking, there shouldn’t be a dispute regarding child support if both of you are W-2 employees since your wages and salary are easily computed by looking at pay stubs. Everything is calculated and with the help of lawyers and judges, the process is simple and easy. In addition to the calculations, an uncontested divorce should also include the division of uninsured medical, dental and other health-care expenses.
Spousal support and uncontested divorce in California:
Unlike child support, alimony is a little bit more complicated because it takes into consideration factors beyond the reliance on income. Some of these factors are: the extent to which each party’s earning capacity will maintain the standard living that was established during the marriage; the extent to which the support party contributed to the supporting party’s attainment of an education training, a career position or a license; the supporting spouse’s ability to pay, taking into account his or her earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets and standard of living; each spouse’s needs based on the standard living established during the marriage;each spouse’s assets and obligations; the duration of the marriage; each spouse’s age and health; documented evidence of any history of domestic violence between the spouses; the immediate and specific tax consequences to each spouse; the balance of hardships to each party; the goal that the supported party be self-supporting within a reasonable time and any criminal conviction. It’s important to contact an experienced attorney who will look at each parent’s income and each factor outlined above to come up with the best solution.