Friday, January 18, 2013

Uncontested Divorce Advantages and Disadvantages

Just like any other decision, there are advantages and disadvantages in reaching an agreement with your spouse prior to any court or attorney involvement, and proceeding with an uncontested divorce.

Probably the most cited benefit of proceeding with an uncontested divorce is cost.  You've likely spoken with individuals who have had long, drawn out, expensive divorce cases.  Multiple internet sources (Forbes, Womansdivorce.com, Bankrate.com, among others)  claim the average cost of divorce in the U.S ranges from $15,000 to $30,000, with the majority of that money going towards attorney fees.  Think about that - if both spouses are paying an attorney $15,000 to $30,000, that means you're paying two attorneys a combined $50,000 or so to determine how your property should be divided and who is a better parent.  If the parties can reach a reasonable agreement, however, that $50,000 can be split among themselves or be used to pay for their children's college education, for example.  Contrast that to an uncontested case, where attorney fees are much, much less, potentially around the $1,000 range even.

Here are some other factors to consider when weighing whether to attempt to facilitate an uncontested divorce with your spouse or proceeding with a more "traditional" contested dissolution:

1.  The outcome - In an uncontested case, you and your spouse essentially decide on the outcome.  You come to an agreement regarding your property division, debt allocation, maintenance, child custody, and child support.  In an ideal uncontested situation, each spouse can set aside the emotional aspects of the dissolution and focus on the dissolution in a more business-like manner, weighing the factors that each spouse feels should influence the property division and determination of custody/support of the children and coming up with a workable solution for both parties.  In this uncontested situation, the division of property and custody/support of the children is influenced by the factors you and your spouse deem important.

Contrast that to a contested case where a Judge (or two attorneys negotiating on you and your spouse's behalf) come up with a disposition they feel is appropriate and fair based on the evidence they are presented with.  The final disposition will be influenced by factors you probably wouldn't think should be determinative, such as your attorney's skill, the judge's opinions and application of the law, and the law itself.

2.  The stress - Think about what comes with a contested case:  court appearances, attorney fees to pay, animosity between you and your spouse, the problems a contested, drawn-out divorce can have on your children, dealing with attorneys, etc...  This can be a very stressful.  In fact, divorce ranks right up there as #2 (with the death of a spouse being #1) with the most stressful event in one's life.

3.  Speed - Contested divorce cases can take awhile.  With discovery, document review, motions, hearings, court dates, continuances, trial dates, etc., the process can easily take a year or more.  Even with Missouri's 30 day mandatory waiting period between the filing of the petition and waiver of service and the entry of the final judgment, the process is much quicker.  Most of my uncontested cases are wrapped up in under two months, some in as little as 31 days.

Not every case can proceed as an uncontested divorce, of course.  Unreasonable spouses and complex issues that require the speciality, knowledge, and skill of experienced family law attorneys will pop up in certain marriages and divorces.  However, if your case is of the more traditional nature, you may want to explore whether an uncontested divorce is for you.

Thank you for reading.  More information about uncontested divorce in Missouri can be found on my website.

Gerald W. Linnenbringer, Missouri Uncontested Divorce Attorney


GWL@LinnenbringerLaw.com
www.LinnenbringerLaw.com