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Lowering Costs of Divorce: Uncontested Divorce
Divorce hurts, but it doesn’t have to be nasty. It also doesn’t have to be expensive. Although it is true that contested divorce actions can become costly for both parties involved, there are certain steps that may be taken to lower the costs of Georgia divorce. One of those steps or alternatives is uncontested divorce.
What is uncontested divorce?
An uncontested divorce can generally be defined as a divorce where both parties have come to a complete agreement concerning all of the four major issues of divorce: child custody, child support, alimony and equitable division of marital assets and liabilities. In cases where the parties have not come to a complete agreement concerning the four major issues of divorce, uncontested divorce is still possible if the parties have a general framework for how they would like each issue to be addressed. If there is general agreement between the parties concerning how custody will be shared, the amount of child support, the amount of alimony, if any, and how marital property will be divided, the details can be resolved with the help of legal counsel.
Although in truly uncontested divorce matters the parties have reached an agreement concerning child support, child custody, alimony and equitable division, the assistance of counsel is still necessary to avoid time consuming and costly delays caused by incomplete or inaccurate legal filings or unfamiliarity with certain laws and procedures. Both parties should be represented by counsel, as one attorney cannot legally represent both parties in an uncontested divorce matter. Once the parties’ agreement has been formally drafted into a Marital Settlement Agreement by one party’s attorney, both parties will review the agreement for accuracy, and it will then be filed with the court along with a Complaint for Divorce, child support worksheet, parenting plan and domestic relations affidavits for both parties.
After a waiting period has elapsed, uncontested divorces are either finalized by a final hearing or by a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. Though Georgia law allows Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings if all issues of the case have been resolved by the parties, some Judges require the parties to appear in court to finalize the divorce, regardless of the circumstances. Final hearings on uncontested divorce matters are generally very short, and consist of the parties’ attorneys or the court asking one or both spouses questions concerning their marriage, their children (if any), the legal documents filed with the court, if they desire a divorce and why. Once the hearing is over, the court will grant the divorce and issue a Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce.
How can uncontested divorce help lower the costs of Georgia divorce?
The primary way uncontested divorce helps lower the costs associated with divorce in Georgia is that it streamlines the process. Contested divorce actions may take months or even years to conclude, while uncontested divorce actions generally take between 30 and 60 days to conclude. Because uncontested divorce actions are often resolved in such a short time period, the legal fees associated with uncontested divorce are reduced. Additionally, the other fees associated with contested divorce actions, such as expert witness fees, guardian ad litem fees, and costs related to trial are avoided with uncontested divorce. Generally, the only fees associated with uncontested divorce matters are the fees associated with filing the divorce action and attorney’s fees generated from drafting, reviewing and filing the divorce documents. Even if a divorce matter initially appears to be contested, both parties may still enjoy the lower costs associated with uncontested divorce by taking advantage of mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods that often result in contested matters becoming uncontested matters.