Uncontested Divorce

While many divorce cases are strongly litigated, it does not always have to be so. In our decades of experience in this field, we find that divorcing couples often want to resolve their divorce issues – including child custody and asset division – without serious conflict as far as possible. They do this by negotiating a divorce settlement out of court with help from our attorneys to ensure that their rights are fully protected. We encourage uncontested divorces in situations where both parties are willing to be fair and reasonable with each other. If you want to know how to finalize your California divorce case without litigation and save precious time and money in the process, this guide is a proper place to start.

What is an Uncontested Divorce in Orange County, California?

When a couple files for an “uncontested divorce”, it means they have already come to an agreement on all of the terms of their separation, such as alimony, child custody and support payments, and property division. California is a no-fault divorce state. This means neither spouse has to prove that the other did something wrong which caused the divorce. The no-fault laws allow you to dissolve your marriage or domestic partnership without having to engage in a lengthy court process. If you and your spouse agree to go the uncontested divorce route, there is no need for you to submit to the litigation process at all. The terms of your settlement will be written down in an agreement that can be presented to the judge as part of the uncontested divorce.

Easy Steps for an Uncontested Divorce in California

Once you and your spouse have drafted and signed the divorce agreement, your divorce will be deemed uncontested. This usually requires the following steps:

File for Papers

You or your spouse must submit a written request for divorce (referred to as a complaint or petition) with the court. In California, there are two types of uncontested divorces – summary dissolution and standard dissolution. Paperwork is different for each.  Summary dissolution is possible when both parties agree and all of the following criteria is met:

  • You have not been married for more than 5 years
  • You have no minor children
  • Your debts don’t exceed $6,000 (this doesn’t include car/vehicle loans)
  • Neither of you own any real estate 
  • Neither of you have more than $41,000 in separate property (this doesn’t include any vehicles)
  • Your joint or community property doesn’t exceed $41,000 (not including any vehicles)
  • You and your spouse have a written asset division agreement
  • Neither of you will pay alimony 

In addition to these factors, both of you also need to waive your rights to appeal and to request a trial. You will also need to complete and sign a Joint Petition For Summary Dissolution or Form FL-800. You will also need to fill out some other forms as described in the Summary Dissolution Information booklet. If you are not eligible for a summary dissolution, there’s another way to get an uncontested divorce in California: a Standard Dissolution. This involves filing the Form FL-100 (Petition For Dissolution Of Marriage/Domestic Partnership), and Form FL-110 (Summons). You will have to file this petition with the court clerk, who will then give you a case file number. Next, you’ll have to send your spouse a copy of this Petition, Summons, and Form FL-120 (Response and Request For Dissolution of Marriage/Domestic Partnership).

Serve the Papers

The spouse who files the papers has them legally delivered to the other spouse—this can be done using a mutual friend, mail, or a professional server. Since the divorce is uncontested and you both have already agreed on all the points, this won’t come as a surprise to the non-filing spouse, unlike in contested divorces.

Enter the Judgment

If you filed the divorce petition, you will be called the “petitioner” and your spouse will be the “respondent.” Once you have served your spouse with the papers, they have 30 days to respond. If the respondent doesn’t submit a response within this timeframe, you can request a dissolution by default. However, before you do that, please make sure that your spouse received the paperwork. As you and your ex have already agreed on everything, the judge will approve your divorce agreement and issue a judgment. In California, this judgment cannot be issued until 6 months have passed since the petition was delivered to the respondent.

Why Consider an Uncontested Divorce?

We understand that even in many uncontested divorce cases, there is going to be some degree of stress and emotional pain involved. Just because you and your partner have decided to end your marriage cooperatively, it doesn’t just undo the anguish you have suffered. But an amicable divorce can be a way for you both to make the best of a bad situation and avoid the potential pitfalls of a strongly litigated divorce. Whether you and your spouse choose the approach of mediation from the very beginning of the divorce process or only for part of it, you will save significant time and money. Perhaps more importantly, you’ll more likely get through the process with your dignity and privacy reasonably intact. Here are some of the biggest benefits of choosing the uncontested divorce path:

Make Life Easier for Yourself and Your Children

By a “good divorce”, we mean things like better co-parenting, more goodwill, less post-divorce litigation, less post-divorce conflict, and better compliance with the divorce agreement in the long run. Ex-spouses who remain on good terms with each other during their divorce typically do much better legally and emotionally than those who continue to harbor deep resentments against each other. If you have children, we can’t stress enough how valuable this can be. Through your children, you are in some ways going to be involved in each other’s lives forever. A contested divorce can lead to burnt bridges to the point where you can’t even look at each other without feeling hurt or angry. Ask yourself: do you really your kids to play the peacemaker between you and your ex at their every important milestone?

It Gives You More Control

An uncontested divorce gives you more control regarding the terms of your agreement as well as the whole process. When you and your spouse work together to figure out details like alimony payments, property division, or child custody, you have a lot of room to be flexible. You won’t have this much control if you go in front of a judge. You and your ex can draft the agreement based on what works for each of you. You get to decide where you don’t want to compromise at all and where you’re willing to concede. This is often far better than having a judge decide your future.

It is Cheaper

A key advantage to choosing an uncontested divorce with the help of our lawyers is the significant savings in cost. A contested divorce, on the other hand, can prove to be expensive. Depending on the level of conflict, it can cost you several thousands of dollars. We have represented cases where couples are so bent on “getting even,” their divorce drags on and costs pile up because they don’t want to compromise even on minor issues. So, if you’re having a hard time reaching an agreement on critical issues in your divorce agreement, ask yourself whether you want to compromise reasonably with your spouse and save significantly in terms of time, stress levels, and financial costs. That being said, uncontested divorces are not exactly cheap. Remember, this is an investment in your future and must be handled expertly. Although you and spouse are responsible for reaching an agreement, your attorney is responsible for making sure your interests are protected and your legal documents are filed correctly and on time. Our divorce attorneys will also ensure that your divorce agreement doesn’t contain any clauses that might potentially become an issue at some point in the future.

It is Faster

You probably know that a contested divorce can stretch for several months, and sometimes even a year or more. Nobody wants to be in that situation for that long. Compared to that lengthy process, an uncontested divorce can be completed much faster. Yes, it won’t be finalized until the waiting period of six months is over, but discussing the terms and reaching an agreement can be finished in under a month. It can take longer than that, of course, depending on how close you are in agreement and how much you have to discuss. The point is, after your case is filed, the difficult part is over. Finalizing the divorce is the judge’s responsibility, which will be handled by our attorneys.

Frequently Asked Questions About Uncontested Divorce

How much will it cost to dissolve my marriage in Orange County California?

If you want to do your own divorce, it will cost you about $435 to file your papers; this is the current rate in most counties in California. Add a few more dollars for postage and photocopies, and that’s pretty much it. People who can’t afford to pay this can file an application to have this fee waived. If you hire an attorney, these charges will be added to your legal fee, so you’ll have to pay for them either way.

How long will the divorce take?

It will take at least six months for the divorce to get finalized. You can submit the final papers for getting your divorce decree 30 days after notice was served to your spouse. After this notice is delivered to the respondent spouse, the earliest your marriage can be dissolved is six months. But it can take longer than six months. One reason for the delay is our backlogged court system. Courts in California keep getting hit with budget cuts every year, which translates into an overworked, undermanned, and overwhelmed staff. Papers can take a long time to process because the service is so slow. Delays are especially common around the holidays.

When can I remarry?

You can get married again only after the final judgment has been issued and the date mentioned on it for your marriage termination has passed. At least six months should have passed after the date the petition was served.

We have reconciled and don’t want to divorce. What now?

If the respondent spouse hasn’t filed any response and the judgment has not been yet issued, the divorce can be dismissed. For that to happen, the petitioner (the spouse who filed for the divorce) will need to file a Dismissal form (CIV-110). With that said, if the other spouse had filed a Response, both of you will need to sign. But if things have gone even further and an order for support has been entered, our divorce lawyers can help to get the case dismissed.

Choose Our Dedicated Uncontested Divorce Attorneys in California

Contested or not, divorce is stressful. There are many decisions to make, financial issues to resolve, and emotions to consider. Having a compassionate divorce attorney by your side can make a world of difference during this difficult time. Our experienced legal team will hold your hand and help you navigate each step with greater clarity and confidence.

For your uncontested divorce in California, our attorneys can draw up an agreement for both of you to sign. Our clients usually don’t have to go to the court at all in these situations. If you do need to appear in front of the judge, it will be for a very short hearing. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a free, no-strings-attached divorce consultation.

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