Friday, October 5, 2007

Uncontested Divorce in California

An uncontested divorce is a divorce where the parties agree to the terms before the filing of the divorce paperwork. The advantage of an uncontested divorce is that the parties can avoid litigation; neither party ever appears in court, and because there is no litigation, the cost of an uncontested divorce is substantially less. The disadvantage of an uncontested divorce is that it requires each party to compromise. In order to obtain a settlement, each party must be flexible and make realistic demands from the other party.

An uncontested divorce is not appropriate for everyone. If you have a large estate, complicated legal issues, have an unreasonable spouse, or you are a victim of domestic violence, an uncontested divorce is not for you.

Since an uncontested divorce is primarily negotiated by the parties among themselves, it is important to seek legal advice early from a family law lawyer. Each party should have an idea as to what his/her rights and obligations are before entering into any negotiations and before filing for divorce.

In order to qualify for an uncontested divorce, the parties must agree on all the terms of the divorce. This includes agreeing on entirely on each of the following issues: child support, spousal support, child custody, child visitation, attorney fees, division of property and division of debts.

The divorce agreement need not be written up in a formal agreement or notarized. One party simply makes an appointment to see a family law attorney (or even a paralegal) and tells the attorney that the divorce will be uncontested. The divorce attorney will then gather the information to file the initial paperwork, all the paperwork required for disclosures, and the terms of the divorce judgment. The attorney will file the divorce papers, serve the divorce papers on the other party, prepare the divorce judgment, arrange for both parties to sign the documents, and then file them with the court. Since the divorce papers are all prepared in the office and then filed with the family law court, there is no reason for either party to ever set foot in court.

Even though the parties never set foot in a courtroom in an uncontested divorce, the divorce attorney who prepares the divorce paperwork can only represent one party. For this reason, we only meet with one party to the divorce and will give unlimited legal advice to that person. Although we prepare the disclsoure documents for the other side as a courtesy, we advise the other party (called the Respondent) that we do not represent him or her and tell the Respondent that he or she must obtain independent legal advice. This avoids any potential conflict of interest and ensures that both sides understand we represent only one party. Later on, if the other side changes his or her mind and tries to set aside a divorce judgment, he or she will have a much more difficult time.

Although the paperwork for an uncontested divorce takes only a few weeks to prepare the process from start to finish is much longer than that. First of all, the initial divorce paperwork must be prepared, signed and filed. Then, the Respondent must be served. The disoclosure documents must be prepared for both sides, and finally the divorce judgment must be prepared and approved by both sides. Once both sides have signed and approved the divorce judgment, and thirty days have run, the final divorce paperwork can be filed with the court. Even after the paperwork is approved by the court, the divorce will not be final. The divorce will not be completed (e.g. final) until the waiting period has expired; this is six months and one day after the Respondent has been served.

If you have any questions about an uncontested divorce, or any other family law related question and you live in the Temecula, Murrieta or Hemet areas of Riverside County, California, please call us at (951) 816-9543 with your family law questions, or simply e-mail us at info@temeculadivorce.com.

You may also visit one of our websites: Temecula Divorce Lawyer; Riverside Family Law Lawyer or Family Lawyer in Temecula.

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