When you call my office regarding a divorce or custody matter, one of the first questions you will be asked by my staff, or me, is whether it will be “contested” or “uncontested”. I have found that people are not totally clear on what this really means, so this blog post will be devoted to explaining what it means and what to expect.
An uncontested divorce is one in which the parties have come to an agreement ON ALL ISSUES related to the case. This does not mean most issues, or all but one issues. It means ALL issues. What “issues” are you talking about, you may wonder. For a divorce without children, the issues generally include, but are not limited to, division of all marital property and debts, alimony (if requested), and whether the wife wants to go back to a maiden, or previous, name. For divorces WITH children, the issues generally include, but are not limited to, the items above, but also custody, visitation, incomes to be used for child support guidelines, amount spent on day care and health insurance (if any), and whether the other party will be cooperative in signing the appropriate paperwork.
If you do not agree on every issue, your divorce is what is considered “contested”. In a contested divorce the parties do not agree on what they want and we may be forced to present our case to a judge for a final determination.
The distinction is important because it can greatly affect the cost of your case. For instance, Faulk Law Firm charges a very reasonable flat fee for uncontested divorces. However, if the divorce is going to be contested, we charge a retainer fee (usually around $1500 up front) and bill an hourly rate for the case. If the case is complicated, it can cost many thousands of dollars. In any event, even if the case settles quickly, it almost always costs more than the flat fee we would charge if uncontested.
The bottom line is that fighting with lawyers is expensive. If both parties can sit down and have a reasonable conversation about expectations and desires and come to an agreement before the case is filed, it can save you a lot of time and money.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact a local and experienced law firm like Faulk Law Firm, PLLC for a free consultation at 580.249.9100.