Divorce can often be complicated, but for some couples, a more streamlined, uncontested divorce may be an attractive option.
Perhaps you and your spouse don't have any property and/or children to speak of, and a cut-and-dry divorce agreement seems best.
Not so fast, Mr. or Ms. Soon-to-be-Single, there are a number of potential pitfalls to consider before getting a quickie divorce. Here are five you'll want to think about:
1. 'My Ex Said What?'
An uncontested divorce works off of the principle that both spouses are generally of one mind on basic divorce issues such as:
- Child custody,
- Property division,
- Spousal support, and
- Division of debt.
But in many cases, agreeing to a "simple" divorce may be spurred by willful ignorance, where each spouse ignores these issues out a desire to avoid conversation. Miscommunication about one or more of these issues can easily destroy your chance at an uncontested divorce.
2. Spousal Support.
Like wanting to throw in that extra $20 to take care of the bill at an awkward dinner, you may be tempted to either waive or agree to spousal support in an uncontested divorce just to move on with your life.
But beware: A hasty agreement can potentially rob you of options like choosing a lump sum payment for support. So think twice before you agree to support your ex-spouse through years of monthly payments, or before you agree to give up your right to ask for spousal support altogether.
3. Hidden Debts Can Remain Undiscovered.
Although divorce proceedings can be costly and life-draining, one of the benefits of a contested divorce is discovery of assets and debts owned and owed by each spouse.
Depending on your state, you may end up splitting your debts down the middle with your spouse, so it would be good to know what he or she owes before you sign an uncontested divorce agreement.
4. Custody and Visitation.
Many uncontested divorces may not involve children, but spouses who include a parenting or custody agreement in their uncontested divorce should consider the following:
- Child support payments;
- Visitation rights;
- Holidays, birthdays, and vacation time; and
- How to resolve future disputes between parents.
Don't risk custody or visitation rights over a need to expedite your divorce.
5. Potentially Less Legal Protection.
Much of the cost-saving in an uncontested divorce comes from either reduced attorney participation or often no attorneys involved at all.
Signing an uncontested divorce agreement without the help of an experienced divorce attorney leaves each spouse at the mercy of an agreement that may sound simple but creates a complex or costly future. So before you agree to anything, it might be in your best interest to sit down with a lawyer to figure out what's best for you.
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