In Texas, the divorce rate is 2.9 person per 1,000 persons of the total Texas population as of 2018.
While divorce cases can be costly for all parties, not all divorces are created equally. Some divorces are smoother, both emotionally and financially; while others are hotly contested.
An uncontested divorce is certainly the best-case scenario.
Divorce laws vary depending on the area. But in the Houston, Texas area and counties such as Fort Bend and Brazoria, the process is much simpler for those parties who can agree on their divorce terms.
These cases result in less ugly fights between spouses facing a divorce. Plus, this option eliminates costly child custody battles—so child issues are not dragged through the mud.
There are steps both parties can take to ensure everyone is on the same page. This helps the process to move right along. Overall, uncontested divorce cases allow for quicker and easier proceedings for all involved.
Keep reading to learn more about uncontested divorces, and when court appearances are necessary.
What Is an Uncontested Divorce?
This is exactly what it sounds like. The marriage is ending in an uncontested manner—meaning without argument or disagreement from either party. Both spouses agree on all aspects of the uncontested divorce.
These agreed-upon terms include:
- Child arrangements: child custody, child support, child medical support, child possession and access
- Division of property
- Allocation of debts and assets
- Spousal support (alimony)
The two parties come to a mutual decision about all of these aspects on their own terms. They affirm the decision with an informal divorce settlement agreement; a mediated settlement agreement; or, only the agreed divorce decree. Any of these forms are acceptable settlement documents, making the agreement legally binding, with a few exceptions.
Sometimes, the idea of an uncontested divorce can trigger questions about “fault” in a divorce.
Texas is a “no-fault” divorce state. This means a divorce can proceed without either side deemed at fault for causing the marriage to fail.
The judgment of fault comes into play when separating property, debts, and assets. It can also affect child custody rulings depending on the nature of the fault. Consider cruelty and abuse. Of course, these are only decided by the court in contested divorcee cases.
However, seeking an uncontested divorce inherently supports a no-fault divorce. If one party seeks to place the blame on the other for the dissolution of the union, in most cases, it is impossible to seek an uncontested divorce, and thus it either goes to trial, or the parties agree to fault grounds. Agreeing to fault grounds is quite possible when an abundance of evidence exists as to the fault, such as pictures and text messages.
A true uncontested divorce meets the following terms:
- Both spouses agree on grounds for dissolution of marriage (or agree not to place legal fault)
- Both agree to end the marriage
- Neither spouse is currently involved in a bankruptcy case
- Both agree on how to divide property, including debts
- All other issues are resolved by agreement
When going to court for an uncontested divorce, the events tend to be more procedural and less dramatic. These divorce cases typically save time, emotional trauma, and legal fees in comparison to contested cases.
Does It Still Qualify As ‘Uncontested’ if the Case Involves Child Custody?
Yes, an uncontested divorce is an option, even if the case involves a child under the age of 18.
In these cases, all major child issues are agreed upon as in an uncontested divorce, including parental rights and duties; the child’s residential geographic restriction, if any; child support; medical support; and, child visitation and access. This may be a viable option for families who seek an uncontested divorce but have minor children..
What Is a Contested Divorce?
In the State of Texas, contested divorce cases are either resolved by a judge trial, or by a jury trial. A contested divorce occurs when two parties cannot agree on one or more fundamental issues in the divorce. These proceedings tend to be more drawn out than uncontested cases. They usually summon greater costs, both emotionally and financially, for both parties.
The proceedings may include a trial, mediation, and/or arbitration. A judge or jury ultimately resolves the issues in a contested divorce case, so both parties lose much of their control in the resolution of their case, in comparison to an uncontested divorce.
That said, typical divorce proceedings are not as dramatic as those shown on TV. Only a few days or less are actually spent in an actual courtroom. The rest of the time is spent gathering and analyzing information (discovery); creating settlement terms, including proposed property and debt division, as well as, proposed child custody and support arrangements; and, preparing witnesses and exhibits for trial. Accordingly, contested divorces require a significantly higher devotion of resources, financial and emotional, than uncontested divorces.
Do I Need to Go to Court for an Uncontested Divorce in Texas?
Under Texas State law, uncontested divorces typically move through the system rather quickly. Most of the actual work required for both spouses to reach an agreement on their divorce terms takes place outside of the courtroom.
Usually, at least one spouse will have to go in front of the judge to answer questions. This is known as a “prove up” hearing. The judge will want to know that both parties truly and fully understand the consequences of their actions.
Divorce is a serious legal decision, with lasting consequences. Even in uncontested cases, it is up to the judge to grant the divorce, and ensure that both parties are confident in their decision. The judge will also seek to confirm that both parties are signing the agreement voluntarily, under their own free will.
However, this hearing is mostly a formality and usually does not make or break the case. There is no need for a formal trial in an uncontested divorce.
Most of the time, the judge will go ahead and grant the divorce under the agreed terms.
In Texas, there is a mandatory waiting period until the divorce becomes law. This period is 60 days in most cases.
It’s important to note that since the COVID pandemic began, there is a possibility that the proven hearing may be virtual, involving the use of a computer or phone video. Harris County, Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and other Texas counties each establish its own regulations. Note that mediations and arbitrations are also done virtually.
How Can I Make the Process Go as Smoothly as Possible?
The easiest possible route for an uncontested divorce is when there are no children together, and no real property (a house or land) to divide.
But most cases do not fit this scenario.
To ensure an uncontested divorce case runs as smoothly as possible, it is best to contact a trusted law firm with experience in family law, such as The Alsandor Law Firm.
Legally, individuals can represent themselves in a divorce case. There are many online resources available to provide information and assistance. The Supreme Court of Texas also created self-help “kits” of paperwork for divorce.
However, self-representation is highly discouraged in divorce cases. A skilled family law firm, such as The Alsandor Law Firm, will help the entire process run much more smoothly.
It may also be beneficial to meet with a financial advisor who specializes in divorce, as he or she can ensure all property, debts, and assets are divided fairly.
Even in uncontested cases where both parties agree on all major terms, divorce is very serious. The paperwork and legal proceedings can be confusing to the layperson.
The expertise of a lawyer with experience in the laws governing divorce in Texas can really help. This is especially true when considering child issues such as child custody, and splitting up debts and assets.
In cases of economic hardship, one may choose “limited scope representation.” This is where a lawyer does not represent their client in a courtroom, but provides legal advice, and prepares and reviews legal documents.
What Happens After Court?
In general, court proceedings may vary between Texas counties, and between cases.
Once the paperwork is filed and the filing fees are paid, there is a mandatory 60-day waiting period. This is also sometimes deemed a “cooling-off period” before a divorce can be completed.
This is required even when going to court for an uncontested divorce. After this waiting period, there is a final hearing, or “prove up” to finalize the process. If granted, the judge signs a Final Decree of Divorce to officially dissolve the marriage.
From this point, both parties are no longer married to each other in the eyes of the law. They are separate entities, legally and financially, and are bound under the terms of the divorce agreement.
State laws vary, but after a divorce in Texas, both parties are ineligible to enter a new marriage for at least 31 days.
What to Know Before Going to Court for an Uncontested Divorce in Houston, Texas
Though they do not make headlines like contested cases, amicable divorces are more common than one may think.
However, this does not diminish the seriousness of these proceedings. Even in uncontested divorce cases, there are many serious lasting consequences to consider. Splitting up property and child custody are just two examples of the important decisions to consider.
Hiring a trusted family law firm, such as The Alsandor Law Firm, is the best bet for ensuring a divorce case is handled smoothly and fairly.
Contact The Alsandor Law Firm, an experienced family law firm, in the Houston, Texas area to help you make the most of your uncontested divorce.