In cases where both parties agree on major issues, Alison may be able to craft an uncontested divorce for quick results.
An uncontested divorce is one in which only one spouse files papers with the court. The other party is aware of the proceeding but does not file an “answer” to the complaint. In the absence of an answer, the court will enter a judgment of divorce by default.
Most of the time, uncontested divorces take place in situations where the parties have already reached an agreement regarding their mutual rights and obligations. This agreement is usually called a Property Settlement Agreement, which addresses all issues between spouses. When the court enters the judgment by default, the judgment usually includes the terms of the Property Settlement Agreement. After they are filed with the court, the papers are delivered to the defendant, who has the right to file an answer to the complaint within thirty-five days of the date of service.
After thirty-five days, if the defendant has not answered the complaint, the plaintiff’s attorney will ask for a judgment of divorce without a trial because the other party did not answer. After entering the default, the court holds a hearing to make a finding that both the parties have entered into the Property Settlement fairly and knowingly. As a rule, the plaintiff must attend the hearing with his or her attorney. It also is advisable for the defendant to attend with counsel, not only to protect his or her rights, but also to assure the court that the Property Settlement Agreement was agreed upon fairly.
If everything is in order, the judge will then grant the divorce by signing a form of judgment prepared by the plaintiff’s attorney and will staple the PSA to the judgment. This will “incorporate” the PSA into the judgment, making the agreement a part of the judgment itself and transforming the private agreement of the parties into the formal judgment of the court. The parties are then divorced.