In an uncontested divorce, the parties agree to the settlement of all contested issues in advance of any court proceedings regarding same. As such, an uncontested divorce is generally faster and less expensive than a contested divorce. This type of divorce is typically the preferred method when the parties have no assets, no debts and no children.
A Petition for Dissolution of Marriage still needs to be filed in an uncontested divorce but the Respondent can waive the right to answer by filing an “Answer and Waiver”, which neither admits nor denies the allegations set forth in the Petition and permits the Petitioner to proceed to the final divorce hearing. Service of process can also be waived if the Respondent agrees to personally accept service, which allows the parties to save the costs incurred for serving the papers via certified process service.
The parties to an uncontested divorce are also required to file sworn financial affidavits with the Court. This requirement cannot be waived. The parties can, however, agree to waive mandatory disclosures (i.e., the exchange 3 years of tax returns, 3 months of checking account statements, 12 months of savings accounts statements, and other financial records representing the assets and liabilities owned by the parties.)
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method, which allows the parties to resolve their disputes outside of court. During mediation, a third party neutral (i.e., the mediator) facilitates and encourages the resolution of the issues that are pending between the parties. In family proceedings, the Court generally orders parties to attend mediation prior to trial.
Mediation can be highly beneficial to both parties as it allows the parties to negotiate terms that are mutually acceptable to them, and to avoid the uncertainty of the results they may obtain during trial. The parties retain full control over whether the dispute will be resolved, and how the dispute will be resolved. In other words, a Mediated Settlement Agreement will only be obtained by agreement of both parties.
In family proceedings, the parties typically remain in separate rooms and meet individually with the mediator throughout the mediation. Failure to reach to a settlement will result in an “impasse” and the parties will then resort to a judicial resolution for all pending issues. All communications made during mediation are confidential and may not be disclosed to the Judge during a subsequent hearing or trial.