Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Uncontested Divorce in Utah

Uncontested Divorce in Utah.

When people have decided they should get divorced, they usually hope for an uncontested divorce. That certainly makes sense. No one wants to fight or endure contention. No one wants to spend the money on a contested divorce. However, the term "uncontested divorce" is often misunderstood.

There is a fairly common idea that if you are the first to file for divorce, and you file for an uncontested divorce, it prevents your spouse from opposing your statements or the terms that you propose. The divorce is then uncontested because you have made it that way. You won the case by filing first. This is all completely false. You cannot prevent your spouse from having a say. It is your spouse's divorce too.

What an uncontested divorce really means is that we have both spouses' agreement to the terms of the divorce. That sounds impossible but it is fairly common. Consider this, the vast majority of divorces in Utah do not go to an actual trial where witnesses testify, evidence is presented and the judge decides the terms of your divorce. Most divorce cases are settled at some point before trial. At the point of settlement the divorce becomes uncontested - the terms have been decided and agreed upon by the parties. An uncontested divorce starts with a settlement. This is common when the parties have not been married long, do not have children, and do not have joint assets/debts to divide. However it is also possible, and happens frequently, when the parties have been married a long time, do have children together, and are financially entangled. It happens when the parties both want a divorce and are able to negotiate their terms before they seek legal representation.

One important thing that divorcing parties should know: Even if the two of you reach an agreement, that agreement must be fair, comprehensive, and it must follow the law. Only a judge can grant a divorce. When the judge reads your papers they will be rejected and no divorce granted if they do not cover all the required topics or if they do not reach clear, concise, and legal conclusions.

If your divorce agreement is clear, concise, comprehensive and legal, the paperwork must still be written, signed and processed. It all must be submitted, in turn and in time, to the assigned judge for a decision. I still get hired to help people with their uncontested divorces. Even though there is no fighting about the terms, there is still a lot of legal work to do. If there are no children your Utah uncontested divorce will require no less than nine legal documents that must be prepared, signed and timely submitted. If there are children, then your uncontested divorce will require no less than 15 such documents, including income disclosures and child support calculations.

An uncontested divorce is always the best way to go - so long as it is fair. I have seen some people make the sad mistake of thinking that keeping the case uncontested is of primary importance. They have given up assets and parental rights - things they would certainly have preserved if they had fought for their rights - just so the case would be uncontested. That is a mistake that is often permanent and cannot be fixed later.

Remember, contested or uncontested, you only get to do the divorce once and you will live the rest of your life in the wake of what happens in your divorce case. Always get competent legal advice and help.

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