|Q: What is an uncontested divorce?|
A: An uncontested divorce is one in which the spouses agree on all issues that must be addressed in a divorce: child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, property (“equitable distribution,” which includes assets, debts, retirement benefits.) The spouses may opt to sign a marital separation agreement that addresses and resolves their particular set of issues. However, a marital separation agreement is not required to obtain an uncontested divorce.
Q: What is a no-fault divorce?
A: A no-fault divorce is one that can be obtained without either husband or wife having to prove that the other is at fault for the break-up of the marriage. One spouse can file for a divorce based on no-fault grounds once s/he have lived separate and apart without any cohabitation and without interruption for one year, or, in the case of a couple without minor children who have signed a marital separation agreement, six months.
Q: What is a marital separation agreement?
A: A marital separation agreement is a written contract between spouses that says how they have decided to resolve their divorce issues. It can and usually does address spousal support, child custody, visitation and support, and property issues. It may address other issues as well. It can be as comprehensive as the couple wishes. Or just cover the issues the
spouses can agree upon.
Q: Will I have to go to court to get the divorce?
A: Not necessarily. In some cases a divorce can be granted on affidavits submitted for review to the Circuit Court.
Q: Will it take a long time? Will it be expensive?
A: That depends. How much time and money will be necessary depends in no small measure on the degree to which the spouses are willing to cooperate with each other.
The final hearing in an uncontested divorce often lasts less than fifteen
minutes. This sort of divorce often only requires only a few hours of preparation by the attorney, who drafts the complaint and the final decree, a form required by Vital Statistics and, as necessary, affidavits for the plaintiff spouse and his or her corroborating witness, and, if necessary, appears at a final hearing to question the client/plaintiff and his/her witness. The defendant may but need not appear.
A contested divorce, however, will involve appearances by both parties and their counsel at one or more hearings, preparation being necessary for each hearing, the drafting of discovery queries to opposing counsel and preparation of answers to discovery queries from opposing counsel, consultation with the client as to decisions that may have to be made. All the preparation culminates in a final hearing that could literally take days.
Most divorces fall somewhere in-between.
Q: What information should I get together to begin a divorce?
A: First, you should gather up documents that show your financial situation: income, property and assets. If you haven’t already, you should begin to think about who would be the best custodian of your children, what sort of visitation would be best and who should get which assets. It might be prudent to take steps to protect yourself financially. You can and should discuss this with counsel at the outset.
Q: Do I need a will?
A: Most likely, yes, unless you are a single person with no dependents and you aren’t that concerned about what happens to your assets (tangible or intangible) after you pass.
Q: Is it difficult to make a will?
A: No. Begin by thinking about what you would like to happen to your “stuff” should you pass away unexpectedly. Who do you want to have your bottle cap collection? Who wants you bottle cap collection? Or, on a more serious note, who should have custody of your children if you are a single or divorced parent? Once you have decided how you would like your affairs settled, the actual preparation of the document can be a fairly simple matter.
Q: Can I change my will after it has been made?
A: Yes, but it must be done properly in order for the change have the desired effect.