The Difference Between Contested and Uncontested Divorces

By Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

orange county divorce mediation attorneys; California Divorce MediatorsA divorce becomes ‘uncontested’ or a decision is reached by ‘default’, when either of the parties does not respond to a divorce or separation petition or they reach an agreement. In a ‘true default’ process, either of the party can give up their right to have a say in the outcome of the divorce or separation proceedings. A ‘true default’ is not a very good idea and is advised against.

Reaching an agreement

If you choose to reach an agreement, you will have to decide on – dividing your property and debts, terms of spousal or partner support, child support or custody and visitation rights in case you have children together. Before you sign an agreement, make sure that you have understood all the aspects in the agreement.

Even if you reach an agreement on all the above issues, make sure you are completely aware of the legal requirements of property division, child support, child custody and visitation rights, and spousal or partner support. Take legal advice to follow the legal requirements for each of the above mentioned procedures.

Responding and agreeing

A divorce becomes ‘uncontested’ when the parties respond to the petition and reach an agreement on their own. Both parties need to prepare a formal agreement. It is called the ‘stipulated judgment’. The stipulated judgment needs to be notarized. After you prepare a formal agreement, you need to fill out the divorce filing forms and all other related forms formally asking the court to give a judgment on the divorce or legal separation.

Not responding

If you decide not to respond to a divorce petition, you should very carefully go through the papers filed by your spouse or partner. You need to be very much aware of the terms and conditions of the divorce you are accepting. The court is going to award a judgment in favor of the petitioner. It is called a divorce by ‘default’.

If you do not want to respond, you should at least make sure that you are a part in the decision making process. You should get a written notarized agreement with your spouse or partner. Because a decision is being made about your future, you should be aware of what you are getting into.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation