Separation Agreements and Uncontested Divorces
Some couples are able to resolve the issues between them outside of the court process and enter into a Separation and Property Settlement Agreement. The goal of mediation, collaborative divorce, and negotiations is to prepare such a document, although it can also be prepared at any point during a litigated case if the parties are able to resolve all of the pending issues. If two parties have already reached an agreement on how to handle the issues arising out of marriage, the parties may want to contact an attorney to prepare a formal agreement to reflect the terms and be submitted to the Court. It is important to have an agreement prepared by a lawyer or reviewed by a lawyer before the it is signed, since it can be more expensive and time consuming (and sometimes impossible) to fix mistakes or address omissions in the agreement after it is signed.
The amount of detail in an agreement will vary depending on the specifics of the case. Agreements may include any of the following topics: terms of the separation, responsibility for debts, legal custody, physical custody, visitation, child support, health insurance, alimony, real property, personal property, bank accounts, retirement accounts and pensions, businesses cars, other assets, legal fees, life insurance, and legal issues. A lawyer will also help to identify any issues that are specific to the case and need to be included in the agreement to make sure that a party, and children, if applicable, are fully protected once the agreement is signed.
Once both parties have a signed the agreement and grounds for an absolute divorce have been established, either party can petition the court for an uncontested divorce. If one party already has a pending court case, the parties may need to file an amended complaint and answer to request that the court hear the matter as an uncontested divorce. If neither party is in the court system, a Complaint for Absolute Divorce will need to be filed. Next an uncontested divorce hearing before a judge, a master, or a special master will be conducted.