Okay, so you’re planning on uncontested divorce- but, you feel unsure of what you need to check for, how to plan, and what exactly you need to work out with your soon-to-be ex spouse.
An uncontested divorce is quicker, less stressful, and less expensive than a traditional divorce. If you must go to trial to resolve issues in your divorce, you could end up spending thousands more than necessary. In contrast, with an uncontested divorce, you can proceed immediately and get the resolution you are seeking more quickly.
Depending on the facts of your case, you could get divorced in as little as two months and move on with your life. However, uncontested divorce comes with certain requirements you will need to meet.
Here, our team has compiled a checklist for pursuing an uncontested divorce. Understanding the requirements and preparing ahead of time can make the uncontested divorce process move much more smoothly and effectively.
And remember, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give our team at Divorce Concierge a call!
- Make Sure You Meet the Residency Requirements
The first requirement for obtaining an uncontested divorce is to meet the residency requirements. Under Texas law, either spouse must have been living in Texas for six months before the divorce petition is filed. Additionally, either spouse must be a resident of the county where the divorce petition is filed for at least 90 days before filing the petition. You must meet this residency requirement to be able to file for divorce. You may be able to file in another state if you or your spouse have been living in another state.
If you do not live in Texas, but your spouse does or has been living in Texas for at least the last six months, you can still file a divorce petition in the county in which your spouse lives. Texas has a significant military population, and you can still meet the residency requirements if you serve in the US armed forces or are a spouse to someone serving in the military. Any time spent outside of Texas while actively serving in the US Armed Forces is still counted as residency in Texas for the purpose of filing for divorce. In short, if you can answer yes to at least one of these questions, you’ll meet the Texas residency requirements:
- Have you lived in the county where you filed for divorce for at least 90 days?
- Has your spouse lived for at least 90 days in the county where you filed for divorce?
If you answered no to both of those questions, but you or your spouse have a domicile in Texas for at least six months before filing the petition, you have met the residency requirement. If neither spouse meets Texas’s domicile or county residency requirements, you will need to file in another state or wait until you meet those requirements.
- Understand the Uncontested Divorce Timeline
Although an uncontested divorce is the quickest type of divorce, it still takes time before your divorce can be finalized. Some states require a divorcing couple to separate for a specific period of time. Texas does not have a legal separation requirement, and you will not have to prove you have been separated before filing for divorce. Once you have met the residency requirements, you can file for divorce in Texas. Although filing for divorce starts the divorce process, you will not be able to finalize your divorce until 60 days have passed from the date you filed the lawsuit.
Assuming you already agree on all the major issues in your divorce, such as child support, child custody, visitation, and property division, you could have your divorce finalized 60 days after filing for divorce. Your divorce will not be finalized until the judge hearing your case officially dissolves the marriage with a court order after approving your divorce settlement agreement.
- Get on the Same Page as Your Soon-to-Be Ex-Spouse
To get an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse must be on the same page. If you know you meet the residency requirements in Texas, you can begin pursuing an uncontested divorce. However, you can only start the process of obtaining an uncontested divorce if your spouse is on the same page as you. If your spouse does not want to get divorced or will not agree to an uncontested divorce, you will need to pursue a contested divorce. For example, if you have 90% of the issues resolved for your divorce settlement, but there is still an issue about child custody to which you cannot agree, an uncontested divorce will not be possible.
You should talk to your spouse and ensure you understand where each other stand related to the divorce. Will you need to pursue further negotiation and mediation to get on the same page? Is it possible for you to pursue an uncontested divorce, or are you certain there will be issues you cannot resolve together? Before you can proceed with your uncontested divorce, these important questions must be answered and discussed.
- Consider Your Living Arrangements
Many divorcing couples keep living together until their divorce is finalized to save money. If you choose to go this route, you should still have a clear date of separation. If you think living together is not feasible, you will need to decide which spouse will move out and when. You will also need to decide how to divide the rent and mortgage payments while you are going through the divorce process. If you were going through an uncontested divorce, the process would be relatively quick compared to a contested divorce. Living together until the divorce is finalized could save you significant money and may be a viable option. You will still need to have a plan for who will continue living in the home after the divorce. If you own your home, you will need to decide whether you will sell the home and divide the profit or how the spouse who loses the home will be compensated.
- Resolve Child Custody Issues
Resolving child custody issues may be a sticking point in your negotiations if you have children. To obtain an uncontested divorce, you will need to have a parenting plan. There are many emotions regarding child custody and visitation. If you need help coming to an agreement, working with a mediator can help. It is important to keep the child or children’s best interest at the forefront when you are determining a custody arrangement.
- Resolve Any Remaining Conflict
If you are still in conflict with your spouse, that does not mean an uncontested divorce is impossible. It just means you will have to resolve them before moving forward. Pursuing an uncontested divorce is desirable because it will save both of you significant time, money, and stress. It is worth putting in some extra effort at the beginning of the process to negotiate with your spouse and ensure you can pursue an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse are still having issues, try to meet and talk in a neutral and calm environment. Ask your spouse if they will agree to try to work things out so you can come to a beneficial agreement for both of you.
- Work With a Neutral Mediator
After this meeting, hiring a neutral third-party mediator can be worthwhile if you are still struggling to agree on one or more outstanding issues. A mediator will not try to advocate for one spouse’s interests. Instead, the mediator will help you narrow down the remaining conflicts and move toward a solution that works for both of you. Working with a mediator can be a safe, effective way to find a resolution so you can move forward with an uncontested divorce.
Mediators are skilled in communication and can use creative strategies that spouses have not tried before to help them move the discussion forward toward a common goal. Sometimes couples do not want to hire and mediator because of the expense. However, contested divorces are much more expensive than uncontested divorces. Investing some time and money in the mediation process could save you significant legal expenses down the road.
- Gather and Exchange Financial Information
The first step in fairly dividing your assets is to understand what assets you have and how much they are worth. In Texas, both spouses will need to have full and complete access to the other party’s financial information. Suppose you have already agreed on how you would like to divide your property. It is still important to take account of all of your assets and property. Many couples are surprised when they begin making a list of all of the assets they own. You may discover that you have more assets than you realized and need to discuss your agreement with your soon-to-be ex-spouse further.
- Make a List of All of Your Income
Preparing before you meet with your attorney can help speed up the divorce process. In order to get a divorce, you will need a significant amount of information and documentation, especially related to your income. You should obtain copies of your tax and income information forms, including the following:
- Income tax returns
- Fiduciary tax returns
- Pay stubs or proof of both parties’ current income
- Employment contracts
- Bank account information
- Decide What Will Happen to the Family Home
If you own a home or other real estate property, you will need to decide what will happen to that property. For many couples, the family home is a sticking point in a divorce. All spouses may want to keep the family home, especially if children are involved. You should get an appraisal of your family home so you can know its current value. If you cannot decide which spouse should keep the family home, you may decide to sell the property and divide the profits. If one spouse keeps the family home, the other spouse will need to be compensated with another asset.
Depending on the equity in your home, you may decide that the spouse who does not keep the home will keep all of the funds and the joint bank account, a significant portion of the retirement account, or one or both vehicles. If you have a mortgage, you also need to consider how it could be refinanced to remove your or your spouse’s name, depending on who keeps the home and continues living in it.
- Make a List of All of Your Assets, Debts, and Liabilities
As you prepare for your uncontested divorce, you should also list all your assets, debts, and liabilities. Gathering this information can take time, so the sooner you start, the better. You will need all of the following types of documentation:
- Up-to-date pensions
- Certificate of deposit statements
- Lump-sump payouts
- Stock and investment information
- Up-to-date pension statements or retirement account information
- List of real estate holdings
- Financial information related to your business
- Credit reports
- Outstanding bills or loans
- Vehicle titles
You will also need to ensure that you have information about your primary residence. You will need your property tax information, insurance policies, utility bills, and any outstanding mortgage information or lines of credit you have. Additionally, you will need that information if you have an ownership interest in any property. You are not required to close your joint bank accounts, but it could be beneficial. Closing any joint bank accounts could help you have an easier transition after you are divorced.
Dividing up debts can be challenging. It is important to be realistic about how much liability you and your spouse have that remains outstanding. Both spouses are responsible for debts incurred during the marriage, which will need to be divided as part of the divorce settlement agreement. If you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse remained jointly liable for a debt, you would need to develop a payment plan.
- Make a List of Your Account Log-in Information
Unfortunately, there have been cases where one or both spouses try to hide assets from each other to keep them from being divided in the divorce. This is less likely to happen in an uncontested divorce, but it could happen. Consider taking time to write down the login information up accounts that you do and don’t have access to ensure that you have access to all the information you may need. Working with an attorney can help you ensure that all of the property that can be divided in your divorce has been disclosed so you can pursue an accurate and fair settlement agreement.
- Make Sure You Include All of Your Retirement and Pension Accounts
For many of us, our retirement savings make up a significant portion of our assets. You should ensure that you have up-to-date information about your 401k and any other retirement savings accounts. If you plan on dividing your retirement account assets with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, an attorney can help you do so in a legally valid way.
You should also include any estate planning documents that you have. Sometimes people forget that they will need to update their estate planning documents after their divorce has been finalized. Bringing your will, power of attorney, and copies of any trust in which either spouse is a trustee can help you and your attorney as you move through the process. Finally, if you have any other legal documents that could be important as you go through the divorce, you should gather that documentation and share it with your attorney. For example, you will need copies of your marriage license, life insurance policies, and pre- or postnuptial agreements.
- Consider Your Tax Liabilities
Taxes may be the last thing on your mind as you begin the process of getting divorced. However, your tax liabilities can significantly affect your financial future after your divorce. You should carefully consider how getting divorced will affect your tax liability. After the divorce, you could end up paying significantly more in taxes. An attorney and a financial expert can help you negotiate a settlement that will consider your potential tax liability. Understanding how the terms of your divorce settlement will affect you going forward can help you make a smooth transition after your divorce.
- Hire an Attorney
You are not required to hire an attorney to pursue an uncontested divorce. You can pursue a divorce while representing yourself. People may assume they do not need a divorce attorney when they file for an uncontested divorce. However, an attorney can help you file all the necessary paperwork, meet your deadlines, and move forward as quickly as possible. If there are some remaining issues you need to work out with your spouse, but you need help with how to negotiate an agreement, an attorney can help.
For example, an attorney may have legal advice on how to divide your small business or property in a way that works for both of you and protects your interests and rights. Attorneys can also answer any questions you have quickly and accurately. Navigating the court system can be complicated, and working with an attorney can speed up the process significantly, especially if you are pursuing an uncontested divorce.
Finally, your attorney can draft and review your divorce settlement. Changing the terms of your divorce settlement is challenging once it has been finalized. An attorney to look for any red flags and help you negotiate a change that can protect you down the road. Working with an attorney gives you peace of mind that your divorce settlement will protect you and your interest.
- Discuss Your Health Insurance Options
Health insurance is another aspect of getting divorced that many people do not consider. In many marriages, both spouses will receive health insurance through one spouse’s employer. Do you and your spouse have your own health insurance policies? If you receive health insurance benefits through your spouse’s employment, will you be able to obtain COBRA benefits until you take out your own policy? You should consider how the cost of obtaining COBRA insurance will be divided as part of the divorce settlement. If you have children, it is essential that you determine how the children’s health insurance will continue to be covered during and after the divorce.
- Discuss What Will Happen With Your Vehicles
If you or your spouse own any cars or other vehicles, you also need to decide what will happen to them. Are the vehicles in your individual names, or are they owned jointly? Who will keep each vehicle? If there are outstanding liens on your vehicles, you should determine whether they can be refinanced to receive one of your names from the lease.
- Get it in Writing
As you prepare for your divorce, you may have come to a verbal agreement with your spouse on an issue. It is imperative that you have every aspect of your divorce clearly written in your divorce judgment. During the exhausting process of getting a divorce, many people leave important aspects of their divorce up to a verbal agreement. You may assume your soon-to-be ex-spouse will honor their verbal agreement.
Doing so is a mistake that can lead to more legal complications and conflict on the road. When in doubt, get it in writing. Make sure to leave everything up to chance by making verbal agreements. Your divorce settlement agreement is a legally binding document that the court will enforce should any other conflict arise. Only agree to a divorce settlement that includes every detail of an agreement you made with your soon-to-be ex-spouse.
- Consider a Flat-Rate Service Fee for Your Uncontested Divorce
At Divorce Concierge, we believe getting divorced should not be a significant financial burden. Our McKinney, Texas, divorce attorneys offer clients flat-rate, affordable packages for uncontested divorces. When you use our flat rate services, you can rest assured that there will not be any hidden fees. You will not have to worry about receiving an invoice from your attorney new charges a high hourly rate. Instead, you will know exactly how much your divorce will cost in terms of legal fees. If you have questions about our uncontested divorce packages, contact Divorce Concierge today to schedule a free case evaluation and learn more about how we can help you pursue a quick uncontested divorce.