While divorce can be a difficult process, it does not always have to be complex and highly litigated. In fact, a divorce in which both spouses work together to reach an agreement outside of the litigation process is generally simpler and less expensive. Such a divorce is often referred to as an uncontested divorce. This type of divorce can also happen by circumstance if one spouse fails to respond to the divorce summons or cannot be located.
When a couple agrees to an uncontested divorce, they settle all aspects of the divorce outside of court. Mediation provides formality to the decision-making process as well as an equitable environment for discussion without the expenses of court. The same aspects that apply in any divorce must be fully determined during mediation. This can include property division, alimony and child custody, support and visitation. The settlement is brought before a judge to ensure that it is fair and agreeable before being finalized.
In California, if a divorce involves no minor children and few assets, it may also be possible to seek a Summary Dissolution of Marriage. This is similar to an uncontested divorce because it is determined that there no aspects that require contest. A Summary Dissolution requires that neither spouse have any interest in real estate, among other requirements.
An uncontested divorce can work well for many couples able to settle their disputes with minimal intervention. For example, a couple believes that their marriage is irreparable, but they have a young child, and they do not want to put the family through a litigation process. They agree to mediation, and they are able to divide their assets agreeably and set up a joint custody arrangement for the child. Their lawyers help them draft the agreement, and it is approved by a judge. They pay minimal legal fees and separate with none of the animosity and drama that often comes with litigation.
Source: DivorceSupport.com, “California Uncontested Divorce“, September 13, 2014