As a Houston divorce lawyer, I litigate hundreds of divorces and family cases each year. Out of all the divorces I do, only a fraction are considered “uncontested”.
An uncontested divorce is the easiest and most cost effective way to sever a marriage. It negates the need for numerous court appearances, costly hourly legal fees and/or mediation (which can be very expensive). For a divorce to be truly “uncontested” the following issues must be worked out between the parties and agreed upon prior to filing paperwork with the court:
Separation (agree to be divorced)
Property division (real and financial; assets and debts)
Many times I have potential clients begin their free consultation by saying things like:
- This will be an easy divorce.
- We agree on everything.
- We have nothing to fight over.
- I don’t want any child support.
On it’s face, these statements seem to indicate an uncontested divorce is in order…right?…not always. Let’s take a closer look at these commonly used phrases.
This will be an easy divorce:
Easy is in the eye of the beholder, or I should say, the lawyer. Most people are not familiar with the process and the nuts and bolts of the law. For instance, if a wife has had a child with another man during a separation from her husband, no matter how long the separation, the law requires that father of that child be included in the divorce for paternity reasons. We have completed numerous divorces described above and they can be very complicated.
Another common scenario occurs when a spouse is missing and is unable to be located but the client is certain that if we were able to find the missing spouse, he or she would agree to get a divorce. The law and the courts generally require that an Ad Litem attorney be appointed to represent and attempt to locate the missing spouse. The Ad Litem will almost always charge an additional fee for their services and quite often we are required to attempt service on the missing person’s last known address which is an additional cost to the client.
We agree on everything:
Sometimes clients assume that other side will agree with their version of a divorce simply because it makes sense. A problem may be that their spouse has a completely different version of what a divorce should look like and that version may make complete sense to him or her. Two versions of divorce that are not the same will make for anything but “uncontested”.
We have nothing to fight over:
This is the most common statement we hear in our office and once we begin explaining that each party is entitled to a percentage of the marital estate, the problems begin. Texas is a community property state which generally means that all property acquired during the marriage is to be split evenly upon divorce. This can be problematic for the spouse who has more retirement or 401K than the other and does not feel they should have to share it. Although we use creative techniques to help craft an agreement that may keep a client’s assets intact, it usually takes a lot of patience, serious negotiation, and yes, in most cases more legal fees.
I don’t want any child support:
This is an easy one. The law requires it so don’t try to get around it. Now, in reality, there are times when child support is waived but it is very rare. We’ll save that discussion for a later post.
In the end, a determination of whether or not a divorce qualifies as “uncontested” is one that must be made by an attorney after an in-depth consultation with the client. The good news is that even if your divorce is not completely uncontested, there are numerous ways to keep your costs down to a minimum. Just because you can’t agree on all aspects of a divorce doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money.
Contact our firm today for a complimentary consultation.
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