What is an Uncontested Divorce?
In South Carolina, an uncontested divorce is when you and your spouse have reached an agreement on all issues involving your marriage. Divorces may address matters such as: child custody, visitation, divorce grounds, child support and the division of any marital debt or assets.
An uncontested divorce is usually filed after one year of separation from your spouse. A divorce on the grounds of one-year separation means that you and your spouse have not lived together in the marital home for a period of one year or more. If at any time you and your spouse reconcile, depending on the circumstances of your reconciliation, the one-year period may start over.
Uncontested Divorces May be Filed on the Following Divorce Grounds:
Other divorce grounds such as adultery, physical cruelty, desertion and habitual drunkenness or drug use are rare because when these issues are alleged, the divorce is typically contested. Although rare, if you and your spouse agree to one of the above fault grounds, an uncontested divorce may still be an option.
If you and your spouse are not in an agreement regarding child custody, alimony, marital debt and assets, then an uncontested divorce is probably not the best solution.
How do You Obtain an Uncontested Divorce?
Negotiate…negotiate…negotiate! Negotiating an agreement between you and your spouse puts you in the driver seat. After all, you and your spouse understand your family dynamics best. Who better to make those decisions than the parties that have to live with those decisions? Negotiating an agreement takes time and patience. It is usually not something that can be worked out in one day and an experienced attorney can help you navigate the process.
What is in a Negotiated Agreement?
A negotiated agreement is an agreement between you and your spouse often with the help of your respective attorneys whereby the issues of child custody, visitation, child support, and division of marital assets and debts have ironed out. A negotiated agreement is family-specific and tailored to address the needs of each individual. There is no one size fits all agreement that can effectively address each family, which is why hiring an attorney to help can be critical.
A negotiated agreement should address ALL your family concerns, leaving few gaps for question. If there are children involved, the agreement MUST address custody and visitation. A non-custodial parent will need specific dates and times of when visitation begins and ends. If there are retirement accounts and joint bank accounts, the agreement must address those accounts. There must be answers to such questions as: who keeps the house and who gets what property in the agreement. Whenever a negotiated agreement fails to specify who gets what and when, it tends to lead to confusion and disagreements after the divorce has been finalized. In addition, a judge may decide not to approve your agreement if it does not adequately address all of the outstanding issues. If these issues do not apply to you or your spouse, the agreement must specifically state that all issues have been addressed or that you and your spouse have come to an agreement regarding all issues. If a judge does not approve your agreement, he or she may dismiss your case or issue an order of continuance. If a judge dismisses the case, then you will need to restart the process of filing a divorce complaint. An order of continuance means that the judge will stop hearing your case and you will have to reschedule the hearing for another day.
Does an Uncontested Divorce Require a Trial?
An uncontested divorce does not require a trial; however, it does require a hearing. Given that the parties in an uncontested divorce have negotiated an agreement before the hearing, a trial is not necessary. A hearing is required to finalize the divorce by having the parties and/or witnesses testify to their knowledge of the marriage before a judge.
At this hearing, the Plaintiff’s attorney (the plaintiff is the spouse who files for divorce first) will call two witnesses to testify. The witnesses are usually the filing spouse and family friend or parent to corroborate that the spouses have been separated for one or more years.
Is an Uncontested Divorce the Way to Go for Me?
An uncontested divorce can be very cost efficient, especially if you and your spouse have agreed upon all the issues that affect you and your family. It is the best way to obtain a divorce if there are no children or no marital debts or assets to divide. It can also be the best way to obtain an amicable and low stress divorce if you have multiple issues involved like children or marital assets or debts. Divorces have the reputation of being stressful and painful, but it doesn’t have to be!
Uncontested Divorces at Sodoma Law York!
At Sodoma Law York, we are often able to charge a flat fee for uncontested divorces. A flat fee is a one-time fee that includes the filing fee, guidance through the divorce process, drafting a divorce complaint (including all support documents), serving your spouse with the divorce complaint, and representing you at the final hearing. This arrangement is limited to situations where each party is able to reach a mutual agreement on the outstanding issues. If you think an uncontested divorce might work for you, call our office today to speak with one of our experienced attorneys.