Uncontested divorce is an attractive option for many people. However, it is not always the best option in every divorce. There are many reasons why reaching an agreement in your divorce can be incredibly useful; but the other side of the coin is reaching a bad agreement can be incredibly harmful to you and your children. Before contacting uncontested divorce lawyers to help you turn a bad agreement into a permanent problem, consider these eight questions.
1. Do the spouses have the ability and desire to work together?
If there is a hostile relationship between the spouses or a lack of desire to cooperate in the divorce then it is nearly impossible to proceed with an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce requires the parties be able to sit down together and work out the terms of the divorce. That’s difficult to do if the parties cannot sit down together and have a conversation without fighting. In this case you probably need a divorce lawyer but not for an uncontested divorce.
2. Do you understand all of the issues involved with your children in the uncontested divorce?
Before you can design the co-parenting relationship after the divorce you must understand all the issues involved with your children. These might include complicated issues like medical conditions or special educational needs down to less complicated issues like how to coordinate extracurricular activity schedules. The divorce decree in your uncontested divorce must provide a framework for custody issues and child support.
3. Are both of you willing to do what is in the best interests of your children?
One of the problems that often arises in a divorce is that some parents want to arrange the children’s lives around their own for their own purposes rather than think about what is best for the children. If the spouses have different priorities over the kids then it can be very difficult to reach an agreement that is fair and in the best interests of the children.
4. Are you aware of and understand the assets and debts in the uncontested divorce?
Another major problem in divorces is when the spouses are not aware of or do not understand the assets controlled by the other spouse and how the marital debts affect those assets. Sometimes this happens because one spouse does not have information on retirement plans in the other spouse’s name or because business ownership is involved. Not understanding both the assets and debts can result in an agreement that looks fair on paper but actually is much less fair. Unfortunately once the divorce is granted there is minimal opportunity to fix a property issue that is later discovered.
5. Can the parties reach a voluntary agreement for the uncontested divorce?
Sometimes in a divorce one spouse will try to coerce the other side into accepting a divorce agreement through unfair or even unlawful means. (This is especially problematic when domestic violence occurs.) When one side tries to force an agreement through these actions it usually means the agreement is not truly voluntary which in turn means it is probably not fair. If the agreement is not fair to you then it is probably not in your best interests.
6. Will the agreement cover all the important issues?
In a divorce the majority of issues will fall into custody issues or property division issues. The agreement between the spouses needs to cover all of these issues for the court to grant a divorce that will help the parties move on with their lives. If the divorce decree fails to properly address the major issues then it sets up the parties for more conflict down the road. This doesn’t mean every minutes of your kids’ lives or every small piece of property must be part of the decree; but the terms of the divorce decree must generally apply.
7. Is there already an agreement or an expectation the spouses will agree?
Before filing for divorce the parties should either have an agreement or be close to an agreement. The further away the parties are from reaching an agreement means the divorce process will be extended and that itself can add a lot of frustration that can end up breaking down the cooperative relationship and turn the divorce into an ugly affair.
8. Is the agreement fair?
Generally I do not convince parties to disrupt an agreement because an agreement the parties can live with is usually a better option for long term success than fighting over details and end up with a compromise that neither side likes but gets the parties to a divorce just so they can move on. This assumes, however, that both sides understand all the issues explained above and agreed with full understanding of everything involved. Often an unfair agreement occurs because one side understands the issues less than the other.
Have more questions? Check out these top ten uncontested divorce questions.