If you look at some legal papers, lawyers seem to be paid by the word. We aren’t, but we do love our language. We revel in Latin phrases; we delight in odd constructions like estoppel and demurrer. So what can we unpack in a basic word like cheap? Does it only mean something acquired at low cost? Or do you first think of it as poor quality, shoddy, deficient? With uncontested divorce, you need to keep both meanings in mind.
What is an Uncontested Divorce in Virginia?
Let’s look at two permutations of divorce in Virginia, disregarding fault and no-fault divorces:
- Uncontested divorce — You and your spouse mutually agree the marriage is over and you both wish to go your separate ways as peacefully, quickly, and inexpensively as possible; you will not allow small differences of opinion to interfere with a property settlement agreement
- Contested divorce — You and your spouse do not agree on the vast majority of issues to be determined in a property settlement agreement such as equitable property division, child custody, child support, spousal support, and parenting time with the children (if any); you two may not even agree that a divorce is needed and will only resolve the matter in a courtroom
Family law attorneys in Virginia understandably welcome contested divorces. Contested divorces can be expensive, since every contact with your attorney generates fees:
- Telephone calls
- Text exchanges
- Zoom sessions
- Administrative work
- Traditional mailed letters
- Attorney-client meetings
- Negotiation meetings
- Settlement conferences
- Courtroom appearances
While you will face some similar fees for both contested and uncontested divorce, an uncontested divorce just about always generates fewer charges. You have fewer meetings, no courtroom drama, fewer disagreements, less attorney time waiting for this proceeding or that motion. Ideally, everything moves along smoothly and time is used efficiently with uncontested divorce.
If your spouse is opposed to virtually every syllable and word in every legal document your attorney must swap with your spouse’s attorney, you will pay for every syllable and word, every time.
Nothing will come easily.
Finding a constructive way forward, when the two of you do not even agree on the goal, becomes very expensive.
So Agreed Divorce is Cheaper?
Why is a certain Swedish furniture company so popular? Because the furniture maker shares the workload with you, the customer. They sell you the parts (and a cartoon-laden, wordless instruction sheet) and you build the furniture.
Family law attorneys like uncontested divorce because you and your spouse have done a lot of the work already. You two come to the attorney already in general agreement on vital components of property settlement:
- Equitable property division — including real estate, personal effects, intangible properties like patents and royalty-generating intellectual artifacts, retirement funds, pensions, and banking accounts
- Child custody, child support, and parenting time schedules
- Spousal support — whether for a defined or undefined time, a defined or undefined amount, or a schedule of payments for career education
The goal of an uncontested divorce is to get both of you on the other side of the failed marriage as rapidly and painlessly as possible. It does not focus on acrimony, conflict, accusations, fault, or guilt. An uncontested divorce handled through a family law firm is usually less expensive (cheaper) than a contested divorce.
Beginning an End
Many times, an uncontested divorce gradually reshapes itself into a contested divorce. Conscientious attorneys will not continue a strategy that is unsuccessful. If a spouse refuses to agree to conditions in an uncontested divorce, no number of legal negotiations can compel the spouse to sign an agreement they don’t agree with.
Your attorney may accept your divorce as an uncontested parting and then, through discussions, discover that strong disagreements still exist. The uncontested divorce becomes contested, and costs necessarily rise.
To begin an end to your marriage, think about your options. Discuss them with your spouse. See if the two of you can find enough common ground to move ahead with an uncontested divorce. That way, you save yourselves heartache and money. You save attorneys valuable (and billable!) time.
You may want a cheap — and here we mean inexpensive — divorce and choose the uncontested path. But if you have any doubts, if you harbor any concerns not captured in the uncontested divorce proceedings, you will end up with a cheap — and here we mean shoddy, deficient — divorce. You will regret it.
Since many of the costs of both types of divorce are similar, bring your concerns to your attorney and listen to your lawyer’s advice. You may find a contested divorce is a better path to freedom in the long run.
At The Firm For Men we delight not only in words but in successfully defending Virginia’s men. We zealously guard our clients against infringements on their rights, attempts to destroy their financial freedom, and crude efforts to cheapen their lives. Contact us today to see how we can help you!