In Alabama, the term “uncontested divorce” refers to a divorce where the parties have agreed not to argue over matters such as spousal support and property division. Typically, in an uncontested divorce, the spouses form a written agreement regarding these issues. They may present the agreement to the court when the matter comes before the court.
A contested divorce is a divorce in which the parties have not agreed on significant issues like property division. The parties have not formed an agreement. They request the court to make decisions regarding their assets and debts. One of the factors that the court will review in a contested divorce may be the “fault” that led to the dissolution of the marriage.
When a party files a petition for divorce, they need to cite grounds for the divorce. When the party says the divorce is no-fault, they can cite irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, incompatible temperaments, or voluntary abandonment as grounds for the dissolution. When a party says the divorce is “fault,” they can cite other grounds. These include adultery, cruelty, substance abuse issues, and a pregnancy unknown to the husband.
The court reviews the evidence regarding fault in hearings or a trial. The court may then divide property and award spousal support based on the acts of each of the parties. For example, say one spouse cheated and hid assets. The court would likely order the cheating spouse to pay the other spouse half of the money hidden in assets.
To summarize, an uncontested divorce and a no-fault divorce are not the same thing. An uncontested divorce is a divorce where the parties do not fight each other on major concerns. A no-fault divorce is a divorce where the parties cite grounds that do not define one party as being at fault for the breakdown of the marriage.
The reason that people who work in divorce law sometimes use the terms interchangeably is because parties who engage in an uncontested divorce often define the divorce as no-fault. When this is true, the divorce is uncontested and no-fault. A no-fault, uncontested divorce usually takes less time and is less expensive than a fault and/or contested divorce.
Parties with children typically follow the child support amounts provided in the guidelines for Alabama. Say a spouse wants to request an amount that is not the same as that which is stated in the guidelines. Both spouses will need to agree on this term for the divorce to be uncontested. The court determines the minimum amount of child support by using the guidelines.
Spouses can seek the services of a mediator to craft an agreement that allows them to ask for an uncontested divorce. The mediator’s services require an upfront fee that typically ranges between $150 and $350 an hour. The cost of a few hours of negotiation at the beginning of a divorce is lower than the time, energy, and money that it takes to negotiate financial matters in a divorce in Birmingham, Alabama.