When most people marry, they assume their marriage will last a lifetime. They don’t plan for marital difficulties, and certainly don’t imagine themselves divorcing. The harsh reality is that nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. The best-case scenario involves parties who agree on the terms of the split, but how long does an uncontested divorce take?
Regardless of the reason for the split, divorces can be emotionally exhausting, financially burdensome, and time-consuming. If you or a loved one are currently researching divorce options or wondering how long an uncontested divorce takes, you are certainly not alone.
It’s important to know that you have options depending on the specifics of your situation. An uncontested divorce is a common option for couples who wish to split amicably and agree on dissolution and how their assets will be allocated. It can be a more straightforward legal process than a contested divorce and will likely save time and money.
Our guide will provide important information on what an uncontested divorce is, how it differs from a contested divorce, and how long an uncontested divorce takes to finalize. Keep reading to discover if an uncontested divorce is right for you.
What is an Uncontested Divorce?
In an uncontested divorce, both sides agree on the marriage dissolution and how assets should be allocated. This kind of divorce is a good option for couples splitting amicably. Uncontested divorces save the parties from undergoing significant portions of the adversarial litigation process, reducing costs and time.
Couples that agree with the marriage ending and have no property, debt, child support, child custody, or alimony to discuss can seek uncontested divorces. This type of divorce does not require an attorney. State laws differ regarding the process of uncontested divorce, but the basics are very similar nationwide.
What’s the Difference Between an Uncontested and Contested Divorce?
A contested divorce occurs when a couple can’t agree on at least some of the elements of their divorce, such as how assets should be split. An uncontested divorce can proceed if both parties agree on key factors such as:
- Property and debt division
- Child custody
- Parenting time
- Spousal support
- Child support
If the couple no longer agrees or needs the judge to intervene to resolve a conflict, the divorce cannot proceed as uncontested and will instead be considered contested.
How long does a contested divorce take? Since they’re adversarial in nature, they take significantly longer because each party’s attorneys need time to prepare and present their cases. Contested divorces require discovery, the process of obtaining evidence and records. Trials also take time, since witnesses and evidence are needed. In contrast, an uncontested divorce is relatively straightforward and considered “quicker,” since the parties agree on essential issues.
One important point is that uncontested divorces, although “quicker,” are harder to appeal because parties mutually agreed to the terms of their settlement agreement. For the courts to modify the agreement, a certain period of time must pass or circumstances must have significantly changed. In contrast, contested divorces are more easily modified because the court ultimately determines the divorce issues and thus, is more open to modifying agreements.
What’s the Process for an Uncontested Divorce?
The first step in the uncontested divorce is to draft a marital settlement agreement to divide the couple’s assets, property, and debt. The settlement agreement may also include child custody and child support arrangements, if children are involved.
After the marital settlement agreement is agreed upon, one of the spouses must file an official divorce complaint with the court in their county or state. After the complaint is filed with the court, the papers must be served to the other party. The service process can occur quickly, within days or weeks of filing the legal documents.
After being served, the non-filing spouse has 35 days to respond to the complaint. If there are no objections to the complaint, a no-contest divorce can be scheduled, and usually concludes quickly. After the hearing, a judgment of divorce will be granted.
How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take From Start to Finish?
So how long does an uncontested divorce take to finalize? Depending on the state where the spouses live, uncontested divorces can take anywhere from two days to 18 months.
Hawaii, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Nevada offer the quickest uncontested divorces; around three to eight weeks. Maryland, New York, and North Carolina require a 12-month waiting period, while New Jersey requires an 18-month waiting period from the time of the complaint filing to the hearing.
Children and Uncontested Divorces
If a couple has children, it is best to consult a divorce attorney before any final papers are signed. States have strict laws about child support and custody, and both sides should be protected against unfair or illegal custody/support issues. In addition, most states will require a judge to sign off on a child custody arrangement, as the judge will attempt to determine if it is the best plan for the children involved.
Online Divorce Platforms Can Save Money
If you want to save some time and money, and you’re concerned about how long an uncontested divorce takes, an online divorce platform may be a good option for you. Many popular platforms require your divorce to be uncontested for use. These sites can help with proper document preparation and explain how to file your documents. Some services have attorneys on staff to assist with questions, while others are entirely self-completed (usually at a lower price point).
When to Call a Divorce Attorney for Help
Although online platforms can be helpful for uncontested divorces, there are times when you may want to hire an experienced divorce attorney. If you have substantial property and assets that aren’t easy to divide, child custody or support disputes, an inability to communicate openly with your spouse, or there is a history of physical or emotional abuse, it would be best to hire a divorce attorney to assist you. An experienced attorney will:
- Provide legal advice and explain your legal rights and options
- Create debt repayment plans
- Help divide any assets and property rights
- Assist with spousal and child support
- Clarify child custody issues
- Help you determine property division
- Represent you in court
Divorcing a spouse is never an easy or quick process. It can be frustrating, stressful, and emotionally, physically, and financially taxing. Divorce impacts every aspect of you and your ex-partner’s lives. In some cases, handling a divorce yourself makes a lot of sense, but in others, it is best to hire an experienced divorce lawyer. Regardless of what you decide to do, remember that legal options are available as you navigate the divorce process.
How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take in Your State? Get Answers Today
If you find yourself in a situation where you still have questions about how long an uncontested divorce takes or how the divorce process works in general, or want to work directly with a divorce attorney, consider getting started with a free legal evaluation to understand your legal options.