Divorce Litigation Bullet Guide 17: Uncontested divorces and Switching to Divorce Mediation or Collaborative

Couch-Meeting-300x200Welcome back to my series of bullet point guides on divorce litigation. We’re coming to the end of this guide, with more information to come on various aspects of family law in the months ahead. If you’ve been keeping up with this series to this point, you’ll know we’ve been covering some of the most commonly queried parts of divorce litigation, ranging all the way from “what is equitable distribution”, to how decisions are made about maintenance.

This time, we’re going to be looking at the concept of an uncontested divorce, what kind of documents you would need to complete an uncontested divorce, and when you might choose to switch from litigation to mediation or collaborative law.

What is an Uncontested Divorce?

Uncontested divorces are an option for couples that can agree on every issue that might arise during the dissolution of a marriage. There are various processes available to help couples come to terms about the concerns they might face in a divorce, from divorce mediation, to collaborative law, and even negotiations in four-way meetings or otherwise with clients and counsel.

  • In an uncontested divorce, the couple must agree on every point, even if some compromise is necessary from both side. If they disagree on anything, from child custody to maintenance payments, then the divorce cannot yet be uncontested.
  • One of the first topics that needs to be addressed in an uncontested divorce is grounds. The most commonly selected grounds are the “no fault” divorce grounds. This means that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, but no one is at fault.
  • If there are children in the marriage under the age of 18 then this can make an uncontested divorce more difficult. Parenting time and custody agreements can be difficult for any couple to discuss, and there is usually some disagreement here, though not for everyone. If the couple can come to an agreement about custody and parenting times, as well as maintenance issues, child support and equitable distribution then, afterwards the court will need to sign off on any agreement made.

Which Documents are Involved in an Uncontested Divorce?

There are various documents that need to be addressed and completed in any divorce case, regardless of whether it starts off as uncontested or not. These documents are required throughout New York, regardless of the method used to decide the case, whether it’s litigation, divorce mediation, or collaborative law.

  • The first document that must be filed in a divorce case is a summons. Divorces can be started by simply filing a Summons with Notice in the local supreme court. A summons is filed along with a Complaint in many cases. However, a Summons with Notice can allow for the complaint to be filed at a later time. A summons with notice must outline the grounds for the divorce, which is usually “no fault”, along with a description of ancillary relief requested such as child support, maintenance, and the distribution of assets.
  • Notices of automatic orders, notice of guideline maintenance and notice concerning healthcare coverage are required to be included with the summons. These orders allow for the status quo to be maintained until the court orders or agreements of the couples dictate otherwise. Verified complaints also need to be filed and served in divorce law. This document outlines things like whether the residency requirements for the divorce are in place, and what kind of relief each party is seeking.
  • If a party represents themselves then an affidavit of regularity, or an affirmation of regularity is required when a client is working with an attorney. Whether the defendant appeared in the divorce case will determine whether an Affidavit of Defendant is required. The affidavit of the plaintiff is always part of the divorce, which includes most of the information in the complaint, along with information on how the case was resolved.
  • Defendants can request which papers he or she wants to be served at the completion of the divorce. Defendants may also waive service of further papers. Settlement agreements are common within divorces which can outline the ancillary relief agreed upon such as child support, custody, parenting time, maintenance and equitable distribution.
  • The findings of fact and conclusions of law and judgment of divorce are documents signed by a judge and prepared by the submitting attorney. These establish the granting of the divorce based on the case. If children are involved, terms regarding parenting and custody need to be outlined. Terms for maintenance can also be included within the judgement of divorce in addition to equitable distribution and child support.
  • A certificate for the dissolution of the marriage also needs to be submitted at the end of the divorce. Some other forms that may be required include child support worksheets, qualified medical child support orders, support collection information sheets, and more.

Switching Away from Litigation

Litigation can be the only the reasonable option for some couples in search of a divorce. However, the process can often be emotionally draining for many couples involved. For couples who can engage in an uncontested divorce and agree on everything between themselves, it may not be necessary to use litigation.

  • Divorce litigation can be a time-consuming, expensive, and exhausting process. Although it is the only option for some couples, parties considering an uncontested divorce might be able to consider alternatives. Mediation and collaborative law could allow for a faster resolution that’s less stressful for everyone involved.
  • In mediation sessions, couples can come to agreements on their requirements for an uncontested divorce to take place. If this couple can agree on their requirements, a mediator that is also an attorney can draft documents to take to the court to be approved.
  • Collaborative law and mediation offer alternative resolution solutions to couples who would prefer to avoid the stress of litigation, but they still require couples to work with dedicated mediators or attorneys and, at times, other professionals such as financial neutrals.

If you have any questions about the issues raised in today’s guide, please read through the other blogs on this website. You can also reach out and ask your questions as part of a free up to thirty-minute initial consultation with me. Contact us about your free consultation in person, via video chat, or over the phone using our contact form, or phone number.

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