In Part 1 of this post, I described two ways in which a divorcing couple gets to an uncontested divorce. Let’s now explore two other ways-both slower than the first two.
Method #3: Here, not only can’t the spouses negotiate first, they have trouble negotiating at all. One one of the spouses files first, the other spouse answers, and the court puts you on a schedule for discovery, mediation, Early Settlement Program, etc. (Again, see this post for a more detailed description of this process and a discussion of how long it takes.) Because you haven’t yet settled and the discovery process has concluded, the court will schedule a trial date and an “Intensive Settlement Conference” or another Early Settlement Program. The court will do anything to avoid a trial. Unfortunately, it might be many months since you started the process. Still, you and your spouse ultimately agree to all the terms after draft agreements are passed back and forth. Then you will have your uncontested divorce hearing.
Method #4: This is a longer variation of three, with the added unpleasantness if pretrial motions-temporary support, custody and visitation, distribution of assets, and the like. Hopefully, you will still agree to a Marital Settlement Agreement and have an uncontested divorce hearing. But sometimes you won’t.
Please keep in mind three additional things. First, as stated in Part 1 of this post, the “cause of action” is almost never as relevant as you or your spouse may think. There are exceptions, of course: If the divorce complant has claims of alcoholism or drug addiction, custody and visitation may be affected. By the time you get to the uncontested divorce hearing, however, all of these concerns will have been (should have been) solved. Second, even if the trial is scheduled and you and your attorney show up for the first trial day, you can still settle at any time. Third, also as stated in Part 1 of this post, the four paths I have described are not discrete, and most divorcing couples wind up somewhere between Method #1 and #3.
Agreements and settlements are almost always better than trials. Deciding your future is always better than having the court do it for you. Your spouse may not always see it that way, but the more you can see it that way, the smoother everything will go, especially your life after divorce.