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When it comes to divorce, there are two basic kinds: contested and uncontested. In the former, the parties seeking to dissolve their union fight out their issues over who gets what in court. In an uncontested divorce, the parties still have to go to court, but there is no fighting involved. Rather, in an uncontested divorce, the parties simply ask the court to approve the divorce agreement they have come to on their own.
Typically, while courts will ensure that uncontested divorces meet minimum state requirements and that the parties are aware of and agree to the terms they set forth, that might be all the courts do. As such, divorcing parties trying to utilize the uncontested process may want to consider the following five legal tips.
1. Don't Trust Your Soon-to-be-Former Spouse
Even though the decision to get divorced may have been reached amicably, trusting your soon-to-be-former spouse is not necessarily recommended. Do your own research and investigation to ensure that all assets and debts have been disclosed. The last thing you want is to agree to take on debts you don't know about, let alone not get your fair share of community assets.
2. Retain Your Own Lawyer
Even when there may not seem to be anything to fight over, hiring your own lawyer to represent your interests is highly advisable. Apart from looking over, or potentially even drafting, the divorce agreement, your own attorney will be able to advise you about specific concerns that you may have never even considered. Remember, during divorce, debts are also divided. So even if there are no assets, you may need some help dividing debts.
3. The Personal Property Trade
When negotiating the division of personal property, it is common for separating spouses to negotiate over costly community personal property items like cars, furniture, electronics, and even collectibles. However, the value of these items can often be exaggerated. If there are hard to value items, it can be useful to hire a third party appraiser to assess the value so that a fair division can be made.
4. Early Mediation
If contested issues are discovered while working on the divorce agreement and division of property, rather than let the whole uncontested process blow up into a full blown contested divorce, the parties can engage a mediator to help them resolve their issues. While engaging a mediator is likely to increase the costs, compared to going through a contested divorce, mediation will be a drop in the bucket.
5. Measure Twice, Divorce Once
Because of the way an uncontested divorce works, it is important to really make sure that the divorce truly is uncontested. While an uncontested divorce can save parties considerable money, if it comes out during the hearing to approve the divorce agreement that there are contested issues, the costs savings can quickly vanish as the court rejects the uncontested divorce.