An uncontested divorce is one in which both parties agree to the terms of the divorce. The value of an uncontested divorce, as opposed to a contested divorce, is that the parties can avoid the time, cost, and anxiety associated with a contentious divorce case. When the parties obtain an uncontested divorce, they do so through a marital settlement agreement that is submitted to the court instead of asking the judge to decide the issues at a trial.
Step 1: Agree on a Parenting Plan
Not all divorces involve minor children. However, when a divorce does involve children, and the parties cannot agree on how to resolve the time-sharing and decision-making authority for the children, Florida law requires the judge to determine the best interests of the children and enter a parenting plan. At trial, this involves an analysis of various factors found in Florida Statute § 61.13. However, parents are usually in the best position to know what kind of timesharing schedule will best serve their children’s interests. Therefore, parents can agree to a custody schedule and a system of decision-making responsibilities, and state their agreement in a parenting plan to file with the court, thereby establishing a parenting plan without a trial. With guidance, you can get the help of a divorce lawyer while keeping your divorce proceedings uncontested.
You can learn more about Florida parenting plans by clicking HERE.
Step 2: Agree on Child Support
In Florida, a set of guidelines is used to determine the appropriate amount of child support . The amount set by the guidelines is the presumptively correct amount that should be used by the court. Therefore, the standard for determining child support is very objective. Parties only need to know their gross income, the cost of health insurance and the number of overnights under the parenting plan to calculate child support under the guidelines. So, in an uncontested divorce, the parties only need to agree to guideline child support in order to resolve that issue, an an attorney can calculate the appropriate amount under the guidelines. Otherwise, the parties can agree to a different amount if justified by the circumstances, though you may want to work with a divorce lawyer to determine the specifics.
You can learn more about Florida child support calculations by clicking HERE.
Step 3: Agree on a Division of Assets and Liabilities
If an asset or liability is obtained during the marriage, there is a legal presumption that the asset or liability is marital unless the parties have a valid nuptial agreement saying otherwise. Also, there is a legal presumption that marital assets and liabilities should be divided equally. Florida law sets out a list of factors to determine who should be awarded the assets and liabilities in a contested court proceeding and, at a trial, the judge will make this decision. Nonmarital assets and liabilities are those that were obtained before the marriage, those acquired pursuant to a nuptial agreement, or which were gifted to or inherited by a party during the marriage. Each party should retain their nonmarital assets and liabilities despite the divorce. In an uncontested divorce, the parties can identify the marital and nonmarital assets and liabilities, and decide who will receive each asset and liability. Appropriate provisions can then be included in the marital settlement agreement. Once ratified by the court, the agreement legally distributes the marital assets and liabilities, awarding them to each party in a specified manner.
To learn more about equitable distribution, click HERE.
Step 4: Agree on Alimony
Alimony can be awarded during a divorce if one party has a need for support, and the other party has an ability to pay support. In a contested case (trial), the parties will present their testimony and evidence to resolve this issue. Florida Statute § 61.08 includes a list of factors for the judge to consider when making this decision. However, in an uncontested case, the parties simply agree that alimony will be paid for a specified period of time and in a certain amount, or the parties agree that no alimony will be paid.
To learn more about alimony, click HERE.
If you and your spouse can agree in writing on these four issues, you can (and should) obtain an uncontested divorce. Whether you need general guidance or need representation for a contested divorce, The Wheeler Firm is here to help. We have experience representing thousands of clients in family law cases, including uncontested divorces. If you want to know more about your divorce rights, and to explore options for an uncontested divorce, schedule a consultation in Okaloosa and Walton Counties by calling (850) 613-6923 or CLICK HERE.