An uncontested divorce is one where both parties are able to peacefully and privately come to an agreement on all issues relevant to their marriage, its dissolution and other ancillary matters such as child custody and the division of matrimonial assets.
There are a few ways this may happen: – 1) simplified proceedings (parties agree from the start) 2) settlement at mediation
Uncontested matrimonial proceedings take place in the judges’ chambers without the presence of parties and most times, Counsels.
This means that parties had agreed to the divorce (stage 1) and ancillary matters (stage 2) from the filing of the papers. This is the cheapest and fastest way for parties to have a divorce.
Settlement at Mediation
Sometimes parties file divorce papers without the agreement from the other party.
After being served with divorce papers, the other party has an option to agree to the divorce’s ground (stage 1) and the ancillary claims (stage 2).
Should a party disagree, he will file his Memorandum of Appearance indicating what he disagrees to. He also has to file either a Defence or a Defence and Counterclaim if he disagrees with Stage 1.
If there is a child below 21, the Court would direct mediation wherein parties and their Counsels can discuss the divorce ground and ancillary claims to see if a settlement can be reached.
If parties are able to agree to both stages, the divorce will proceed uncontested. However, parties can also agree to the first stage and disagree to the second stage. In this case, the divorce (stage 1) will proceed uncontested and ancillary matters (stage 2) will move to a contested hearing.
Contested divorce (Stage 1 & 2)
A contested divorce means there remain key issues that are disagreed. A divorce may be contested in both stage 1 & 2 or either of the stages. It is recommended you use the services of a top divorce lawyer for guidance.
It is also likely that stage 1 of the divorce is not contested (this is usually agreed upon at mediation after relevant amendments) but parties choose to contest stage 2 (ancillary matters) of the divorce.
Stage 1 is on the divorce particulars whilst stage 2 is on the ancillary matters. Some issues that are often in contention in stage 2 includes: child custody, child visitation rights, division of property and assets, and the allocation of debt.
If a divorce is contested in stage 1 as one party feels aggrieved and disagrees with a particular issue, he or she may feel the need to file a counterclaim. Parties will then have to attend trial and be subjected to examined and cross-examined. This is an Open Court Hearing. Such proceedings can be lengthy and arduous.
The Judge will give his/her verdict after the Hearing.
If a divorce is contested in stage 2, the Court will direct parties to file Affidavits (sworn statements) to state their version of events and enclose the relevant documents.
Matter will then proceed to a Hearing (parties need not be present) and the Judge will give his/her judgment after the Hearing.
Uncontested divorce proceedings are therefore preferred over contested matrimonial proceedings as they are often efficient and inexpensive. Seek advise from an experienced divorce lawyer to understand your rights and obligations.