Uncontested Divorce in California is becoming more and more common. As more people embrace the idea of mediation, collaborative divorce, and even settling things themselves without going to court, more and more divorces are uncontested.
It makes sense when you think about it:
- Courts are over-crowded and each judge is expected to hear 30 cases a day. Pros and cons of mediation.
- Lawyer fees are higher than ever. The average cost for a litigated divorce in Los Angeles is about $50,000 per person.
- More and more people value the idea of being cooperative co-parents once their divorce is over
- In the long run it’s easier to be cordial than enemies, even if you don’t have kids
I also think it’s a shift in values. More and more people are committed to working things out. We’ve started to appreciate that it’s easier to get along than it is to fight, and that fighting takes up so much negative energy. When you’re caught up in the fight, you can’t live your life, raise your children, or thrive at work. And I think people have finally caught onto that notion.
Consider child custody and how it’s evolved over the years:
Nowadays, parents are more and more likely to share custody and appreciate what each parent contributes to the upbringing of children. In California, the legal presumption is that parents will have joint physical custody and joint legal custody of children–a truly shared arrangement–unless one parent proves that this wouldn’t be good for the children.
To share custody, it’s much, much easier if you get along, at least as cooperative co-parents. You don’t have to be best friends. By committing to settle out of court, you have a much better chance of preserving the good parts of your relationship for the sake of the kids.
So how do you make your divorce uncontested?
There are several elements:
- Paperwork and court filing
- Financial disclosures
- Dealing with the emotional divorce
- Coming to an agreement
Paperwork: Most people get help with filing the paperwork, whether they hire a paralegal, use a mediator or lawyer, get the forms online, or use a kit from Nolo Press. The same paperwork is required for all divorces: Petition, Response, and Stipulated Judgment.
Negotiation: Reaching the deal doesn’t have to be complicated. Make an agenda of everything you need to talk about and then start with the easiest things and work your way up. Schedule a time when you can be alone together, even if it’s at a public place like IHOP in a quiet booth. Don’t try and do everything at once. Take it slow and give each person a chance to explain how they feel about each issue. Quit before you get tired. You can always meet again. Resources to get started.
Financial Disclosures: The law requires you to fill out financial disclosures. Be honest, accurate, an thorough. You can get in a lot of trouble fast if the court finds out you lied. No goofing around. No holding back. Your spouse is entitled to see all your financial records, and vice versa, so it’s easiest to cooperate and simply make copies and exchange them. Worksheets to prepare for divorce
Dealing with the Emotional Divorce: I’m convinced this is 80% of the process. While the legal stuff is important, and you want it done right, the emotional divorce is key to moving on in a healthy way. The court expects you to get divorced as a business deal, but you didn’t get married as a business deal. The court isn’t going to help you with the emotional divorce, so your support system is really important. Friends, family, spirituality and professionals like therapists are there to help, so reach out. You can return the favor later.
Coming to an Agreement: Your divorce will get resolved one way or the other