What Is an Uncontested Divorce and How Does It Work?

When it comes to divorce, the traditional image that comes to mind is often one of a bitter and contentious battle between spouses. However, not all divorces have to be that way. In fact, there is an alternative option known as an uncontested divorce, which offers a simpler and more amicable approach to ending a marriage. In this article, we will explore what an uncontested divorce is, how it works, its advantages, the need for attorneys, and other important aspects to consider.

Understanding Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is a type of divorce where both parties are in agreement on all the major issues involved in the dissolution of their marriage. This includes matters such as the division of marital property, spousal support (formerly known as alimony), child custody and visitation, child support, and the division of shared debt. In an uncontested divorce, the couple can either submit an agreement, settlement, or stipulation to the court with everything they have agreed upon, or one spouse can file for divorce while the other spouse never responds to the divorce papers or appears in court.

It is important to note that while at least 90% of all divorces are uncontested, many of them start out as contested divorces, where the parties initially have disagreements but eventually reach an agreement. Uncontested divorces offer a simpler and more streamlined process compared to contested divorces, which often involve lengthy court battles and higher costs.

The Process of an Uncontested Divorce

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Uncontested Divorce Requirements

To initiate an uncontested divorce, there are two possible pathways. The first scenario is where the spouses agree on all the issues in the divorce and submit an agreement or settlement to the court. The second scenario occurs when one spouse files for divorce, asks for specific things, and the other spouse fails to respond to the divorce papers or appear in court. In this case, the court decides whether the filing spouse is entitled to what they have requested, without input from the second spouse.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

All divorces, whether contested or uncontested, begin in the same way. One partner, known as the petitioner, files a petition for divorce with the court, and the other partner, known as the respondent, is served with the complaint for divorce. The petitioner lists everything they are asking for in the divorce, and depending on the issues involved, temporary court orders may be requested.

Between the initial filing and the court date, couples are encouraged to try and work out as many issues as possible. If the couple can agree on all the matters in the divorce, they can proceed with an uncontested divorce by completing a settlement agreement. This agreement, which can be prepared with or without the assistance of an attorney or other professionals, states the terms agreed upon by both parties. Once both parties confirm their agreement to the court, the judge reviews and signs off on the terms. In some cases, a brief court appearance may be required, where the judge asks a few questions to ensure everyone understands the terms they are agreeing to.

If the respondent fails to respond to the divorce papers or appear in court, the court evaluates the petitioner’s requests and issues a decision. This process usually requires a brief hearing. However, during the time leading up to the court date, both parties should make an effort to reach an agreement on as many issues as possible. If they are unable to do so, the remaining matters will have to be decided in court through a contested divorce process.

In a contested divorce, both parties gather and present evidence, including witness testimony, to support their desired outcomes. The judge then makes a decision and issues a binding judgment of divorce, effectively ending the marriage.

Advantages of an Uncontested Divorce

What is an “Uncontested Divorce” And How Does It Work? - The Law Group of  Northwest Arkansas PLLC

Uncontested divorces offer several advantages over contested divorces. The two main advantages are that they save time and money. In an uncontested divorce, if a settlement is reached, it can be filed within a few weeks and approved by the court within a month. This is significantly faster than the potentially lengthy process of a contested divorce.

Uncontested divorces also tend to be less expensive. If both parties can agree on all the issues without hiring attorneys, the cost will be considerably lower compared to a contested divorce that requires extensive legal representation. Even if both spouses choose to hire attorneys, avoiding a trial can still result in significant cost savings.

If a spouse fails to respond to the divorce filing, the process will be even faster and less costly. There will be no negotiation, trial, or conflict, resulting in minimal legal fees for document preparation and a brief court appearance. Overall, an uncontested divorce offers a more efficient and cost-effective solution for couples seeking to end their marriage amicably.

The Need for Attorneys in an Uncontested Divorce

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While it is not mandatory to hire an attorney for any type of divorce, the complexity of the divorce and its potential impact on both parties’ financial future and child custody rights often necessitate legal guidance. Even in an uncontested divorce, there are situations where attorneys can be beneficial.

For instance, if the divorce involves complicated division of assets, jointly-owned properties, child custody and support, spousal support, or other potentially complex matters, attorneys can provide valuable expertise and help the parties reach a fair settlement. Additionally, certain matters such as child support are usually governed by specific laws and formulas that parents cannot deviate from. Attorneys can advise their clients on these legal requirements.

It is also worth considering that when filing for divorce, it is difficult to predict whether the spouse will fail to respond, potentially turning the process into an uncontested divorce. In such cases, having an attorney prepare the necessary forms ensures that the filing spouse requests everything they are entitled to. Attorneys can also provide assistance in situations where serving the divorce papers to the spouse proves challenging, as they can explore alternate methods of service allowed by the state.

While attorneys can be beneficial in an uncontested divorce, their involvement may not be necessary for all cases. Ultimately, the decision to hire an attorney depends on the complexity of the divorce, the level of agreement between the parties, and the need for legal guidance.


An uncontested divorce offers a simpler, more amicable approach to ending a marriage when both parties can agree on all the major issues involved. It provides a faster, more cost-effective alternative to contested divorces, which often involve lengthy court battles and higher costs. While attorneys can be beneficial in navigating the complexities of an uncontested divorce, they may not be necessary in all cases. Ultimately, the decision to hire an attorney depends on the specific circumstances of the divorce. By understanding the process and advantages of an uncontested divorce, couples can make informed decisions and pursue a more peaceful resolution to their marriage.

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