When it becomes apparent that your marriage is ultimately destined for a divorce, even if the option of an uncontested divorce is on the table, you may discover that you are running into a whole litany of significant challenges that you hadn’t initially accounted for. You might be concerned regarding the impact the impending divorce proceedings will have on your financial standing, how this option will affect your future relationship with your kids, who you will rely on for emotional support, and many more practical aspects related to how this major life event will impact your life moving forward. Even in scenarios where you and your former spouse are amicable and cooperative, when it comes to navigating the divorce proceeding, these underlying stressors can be unnerving. At times, the idea of consulting an attorney may feel like just one more thing to worry about and may convince some individuals to contemplate whether hiring a lawyer is even needed when going through an uncontested divorce.
Distinguishing Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce Proceedings
The major distinction between contested and uncontested divorce ultimately boils down to whether the two parties can come to a mutual agreement pertaining to the following issues:
- How the former couples’ property will be divided among the two individuals. This includes any real property, jointly-owned business entities, jewelry, cars, money, financial accounts, stocks, etc.;
- If one party is entitled to alimony and, if the answer is yes, the amount of alimony and how long that support will be paid;
- The determination of which party is allocated physical and legal custodial rights of the children and the establishment of a visitation schedule, if applicable; and
- The amount and duration of child support payments.
The Risks of Undergoing a Lawyer-less Uncontested Divorce
As is it is with virtually all aspects of the legal world, any party inherently possesses the right to represent themselves without professional legal counsel in family law litigation. By taking that route, the party bears the responsibility for properly completing all the requisite filings with the court on time and complying with all rules, presenting their legal arguments before the court, and ultimately composing a divorce agreement that is compliant with Florida law.
If the two parties can work together in order to produce a written mutual agreement on all of the aforementioned matters, then they may pursue an uncontested divorce. If, on the other hand, there is a disagreement pertaining to these issues, then they must settle the matter in court via a contested divorce.
Obviously, the potential advantages of forgoing the assistance of an attorney is to save expenses in the form of legal fees. However, the risks of doing so are many and may significantly and permanently outweigh any advantages. The possible risks of attempting an uncontested divorce are as follows:
- Complex Filing Regulations: It can be easy to make seemingly minor mistakes that can cause significant delays in completing your divorce process. Unless you have some form of legal experience, writing and filing the needed documentation in compliance with the court’s often nuanced regulations can be a very intricate and lengthy undertaking. An individual could dedicate hours looking up the divorce guidelines and drafting the requisite forms to be submitted to the court, only to have the judge tell them that the file is not complete, has errors, or is otherwise improperly organized. These setbacks can delay the finalization of your divorce to the tune of several months without the aid of an experienced divorce attorney.
- Forfeiture of Rights: It is often the case that a party will unknowingly forfeit their inherent rights at some point in the divorce proceedings, which can have a detrimental impact on their post-divorce quality of life. If you voluntarily choose to sign an agreement without first being fully cognizant of the full extent of the rights you are entitled to pertaining to jointly-owned property, alimony, custodial arrangements and child support payments, you may not be able to retrieve those rights after the fact. Additionally, if you do not request for specific relief in the initial pleadings during the divorce process, you may irreversibly forfeit your right to be awarded that specific relief by the judiciary. Thus, even if you retain a lawyer further on in the divorce, it may be too little too late in terms of getting the relief you seek.
- Amicable Now Doesn’t Always Mean Amicable Later: The inherent stress of the divorce process can quickly spark friction between two previously-cooperative parties – throwing a wrench in the uncontested divorce process and grinding all proceedings to an untimely halt. It is often the case that, former spouses who simply wished to resolve the divorce as quickly and amicably as possible at the onset of the divorce proceedings, quickly turn hostile when the realization of what the post-divorce financial and emotional challenges will be truly sink in. This causes tensions to escalate and the uncontested divorce almost instantly transitions into a contested case bound for intense litigation. By consulting with a trustworthy attorney from the initial stages of the uncontested divorce, who is adept in filing the requisite paperwork, you can mitigate the stress of the divorce proceeding and facilitate an efficient and cooperative divorce between you and your former spouse.
Play it Safe – Consult a Trustworthy and Experienced Florida Divorce Attorney
Every divorce situation has its unique challenges, and you should not consult with a divorce lawyer that tries to force a one-size-fits-all approach to your case. The attorneys at Beller and Bustamante, P.L., pride themselves in working closely with all of their clients in order to develop a tailored, effective legal strategy to each and every one of their legal issues. If you and your former spouse are considering an uncontested divorce and reside in Duval, Clay, St. Johns, Flagler, or Putnam counties, our separate uncontested divorce site DivorceInTheSunshineState.com offers an online video consult, a flat fee price, and an efficient, simple dissolution of your marital status. We also offer the option for you to obtain an individually-tailored legal solution to your uncontested divorce proceeding through one of our experienced divorce attorneys who will assist you in every step of the process. Contact our firm by calling us today to set up a consultation about your situation and learn more about how we can assist you with all of your family law needs.