Contested vs Uncontested Divorce
Clients often ask about the terms “contested” and “uncontested” divorce. Many people think that whether a divorce is contested refers to whether both spouses agree to the divorce, conjuring up images from television or movies where one spouse tries to convince the other to “sign the papers.” While agreeing to the divorce is one aspect of what makes a divorce “uncontested,” the terms have a much more specific legal meaning in Texas. For eligible couples, an uncontested divorce can be much cheaper, faster, and easier than a contested divorce. To learn about uncontested divorce in Texas, continue reading. If you are considering divorce in Harris County, call a dedicated Houston divorce lawyer for advice and representation.
What is an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce is a divorce in which both parties agree on every single issue attendant to the divorce–support, property division, etc. For parties who agree on everything and who satisfy certain other specific requirements, Texas provides a streamlined legal process intended to resolve the divorce as quickly and efficiently as possible. Uncontested divorces involve minimal time in court and minimal expenses, while still resulting in a final divorce decree and dissolution of the marriage.
If there are any issues about which the parties cannot agree, whether it involves the distribution of assets, child custody, apportionment of debts, or any other issue, then the parties will need to proceed with a contested divorce. Parties able to reach a total agreement through mediation, collaborative divorce, or other forms of alternative dispute resolution before filing for divorce may be able to file for an uncontested divorce or otherwise streamline the court proceedings.
Requirements for an Uncontested Divorce
The specific, streamlined process for an uncontested divorce in Texas is not available in all cases. To file for an uncontested divorce, the parties must satisfy the following requirements:
- The spouses agree to divorce, and on the “grounds” for divorce (typically, irreconcilable differences)
- The parties are in complete agreement on all financial issues relating to the marriage, including the division of property and debts
- Neither party is seeking spousal support/alimony
- The parties do not have any minor children together
- The parties do not own real property together and do not have retirement benefits to divide
- Neither party has an ongoing bankruptcy case
- The couple satisfies the state and county residency requirements
Texas provides a standardized form for couples who satisfy these criteria to fill out in order to petition for an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce follows the same legal process as a contested divorce, but the process moves forward more easily if the divorce is uncontested. There are, however, other options for a more streamlined divorce process in Texas even for couples that do not satisfy all of the strict criteria for an “uncontested” divorce. Couples may file for an “agreed divorce,” for example, even if they have minor children, provided that they agree on all custody-related issues as well as everything else. To find out which form of divorce is available and optimal for your family, speak with a knowledgeable Texas family law attorney.
If you’re dealing with family law issues including divorce, alimony, property division, child support, or any other family law matter in Texas, get seasoned help protecting your rights by contacting the experienced and efficient Houston family law attorney Maria S. Lowry at 713-850-8859.