What Is An Uncontested Divorce?

Updated April 30, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Going through a divorce can be emotionally challenging

An uncontested divorce is considered the "easy" divorce because there is nothing to fight or "contest" which can't be resolved without court intervention. There may be no need to decide child support, child custody, spousal support, nor marital property to divide. Uncontested divorces are usually faster to process because the parties never see the inside of a courtroom.

When an outstanding child or spousal support and marital property exists, the spouses may agree to the terms of a separation agreement and go on their merry way. If the case proceeds to court, a court may grant an uncontested divorce if the defendant fails to appear in court. Here, the court may award everything to the plaintiff by default. If you’re considering a divorce, continue reading to learn more about the types of issues that must be settled in a divorce case and how an online therapist can help you navigate the process.

The ins and outs of an uncontested divorce

When it comes to divorce, four main issues must be settled:

  • Custody
  • Payment of child and spousal support (maintenance)
  • Division of property and assets
  • Division of debt

No divorce is considered truly "contested" because there are always disagreements. The difference is that these disagreements can be resolved outside of a courtroom and potentially without an attorney in an uncontested divorce.

In an uncontested divorce, the couple does not need to go through the stress of a trial to decide on the issues above. In fact, hostility is typically reduced, allowing cooler heads to prevail so that both parties can move on much faster than if they were to pursue the matter through litigation.

When a couple decides to divorce, they should first try to come to terms that they can both agree upon without needing to go to court. That way, even if they do need to go to court, the process can be streamlined because they've already come to an agreement on some of the issues on their own.

Some couples may decide that they need help to resolve their issues, but they may not necessarily hire an attorney. In these cases, the couple can opt for arbitration or go to a mediator, with or without an attorney present. This allows the couple to save both time and money by avoiding litigation and trial. However, they will still need to file divorce papers.

Filing pro se for an uncontested divorce

If the parties file for divorce pro se, this means that they have chosen not to be represented by an attorney. In this case, the parties would need to obtain the appropriate forms from the court that would have jurisdiction over the matter.

Upon completing these forms, the parties would then bring or mail them to court, along with the related fees. A judge would then be assigned to the case. After reviewing the paperwork, the judge would sign off on the divorce, provided nothing further was required from the parties.

When an uncontested divorce becomes a contested divorce

Unfortunately, many uncontested divorces turn into contested ones when one or both spouses decide to turn the divorce into a fight. Maybe one partner had decided not to move out of the marital home when they had initially agreed to let their ex-spouse keep the house. Maybe one partner originally decided that they wanted spousal support when they had previously waived their claim.

In this case, the parties would still be allowed to proceed pro se if they chose to do so, or they could opt to hire an attorney. In the case of a contested divorce, the parties would not consult the court for a packet of the divorce paperwork. Instead, the matter would be assigned to a judge and, from there, it would proceed to litigation.

When to hire an attorney

How do you know when it is time to involve a lawyer? It can be difficult to make the right decision when you’re simultaneously feeling a host of emotions, often in competition for one another. You may be reconciling the end of a marriage after a long fight to stay together, or you may feel scorned after discovering an infidelity. In such cases, when emotions are running high, it can be advantageous to hire an attorney. They can serve as a neutral party who can show you all your available options and potential consequences.

For example, if you are entitled to half of your spouse's pension, and you are unaware of this when you file for divorce, you may not be able to go back for it once the papers have been signed.

There may be insurance benefits you may be entitled to that you are unaware of, and you may have to split the cost of certain debts that you don't realize are partially yours.

You may even have questions about whether you are entitled to sue for divorce on the grounds you are seeking. And, depending on where your spouse may be, if they are not living with you, it may also be difficult to serve your spouse with the summons and additional paperwork needed to start the proceedings.

Going through a divorce can be emotionally challenging

Parties involved in a contested divorce may choose to proceed pro se at first, then decide to hire an attorney later in the case if they feel the court is not adequately meeting their needs. Both parties may not hire the same attorney, as this would present a conflict of interest, and the attorney would be ordered by the court to pick a side or abandon the case altogether.

Some things may come up over the course of a contested divorce that you cannot possibly predict. Suppose one of the parties loses their job during the proceedings. What happens to maintenance or child support then? Suppose the marital residence succumbs to property damage, and one party no longer wants the house. As you can imagine, there are many situations – often out of the parties’ control – that can warrant transitioning a divorce from uncontested to contested.

The benefits of an uncontested divorce

Perhaps the most notable benefit of an uncontested divorce is the amount of money you can save by not having to hire an attorney. And even if you do need to hire an attorney to help with the paperwork, this is still significantly cheaper than needing someone to guide you through what is likely to be a years-long litigation process.

An uncontested divorce is designed so that the parties can get in and get out with as many “scars” as possible. In other words, couples are granted divorces more quickly, and there are fewer demands for information and fewer proceedings needed to resolve the couple's issues.

Contested divorces are made public, as too are their sordid details. In an uncontested divorce, less information is filed with the court, which is less information than in the public record.

The negatives of an uncontested divorce

Couples with more complicated situations may want to evaluate whether an uncontested divorce is the right move for them. The first issue is regarding children. Couples who have unemancipated children will undoubtedly experience a more complicated divorce than couples without kids. Issues like child support, visitation, medical insurance, and schooling choices must be decided and agreed upon.

Some states don't even allow couples with children to file for an uncontested divorce. In fact, couples with children are subjected to filing additional paperwork to ensure that the rights and needs of the children are adequately met.

Couples who disagree on spousal support or property arrangements may do better to seek legal advice and let their attorneys help them agree. Yes, hiring an attorney and going to court is a costly process, but it can be cheaper in the long run than the amount of money you could end up spending and losing when you are inexperienced in legal proceedings.

Settling a divorce before trial

Sometimes, a couple will go through litigation to the point of trial and then agree on the terms of the divorce before they make it to the trial. This is called a settlement. Perhaps before you decide to go on trial and ask yourself, “How much does a divorce cost," learn more about settlement first. 

What's great about a settlement is that the parties do not have to worry about the other spouse filing an appeal because the court did not decide for them; they made it for themselves. This means that, for the most part, they have agreed.

If the parties settle, it is important to document it. Therefore, the next step is for a settlement agreement to be drafted, either by the pro se plaintiff or their attorney. The settlement agreement then works as a legally binding document, and its provisions can be enforced in the future by a court if one of the spouses fails to live up to that agreement.

Judges and lawyers are there for you if you need to pursue a matter to trial; however, most prefer to settle out of court in much the same way as if the couple was proceeding in an uncontested fashion. If the parties have difficulty agreeing by themselves, their lawyers will usually help them do so before the matter proceeds to trial.

Online therapy for divorced parents

In many cases, an online therapist can be an asset for a person going through a divorce. As previously mentioned, this time can be highly volatile, with emotions running high and both parties potentially reacting out of anger, jealousy, or guilt. Especially if you are the parent of children, you’ll want to do your best to proceed in a way that is level-headed, responsible, and human. It is important for your children to see that you have emotions, but that you do not allow yourself to be consumed by them, and that you have their best interest at heart.

An online therapist will not judge you for your perceived shortcomings or “failed” marriage. Rather, they want to meet you where you are and work with you to make the best choices for your goals and your children’s well-being, should you have children with your former spouse. 

One of the great things about online therapy for divorce is that you aren’t required to commute to an in-person therapist’s office. You only need a secure internet connection to meet from your home or office – no need to miss out on your kids’ soccer games, family gatherings, or scoot out of work early (as you might need to in order to attend meetings with attorneys). Additionally, you can schedule sessions with your therapists at convenient times, such as when you know your kids won’t be home to hear sensitive information.

Online therapy has shown effectiveness in aiding people who are going through a divorce or considering the end of an intimate relationship. In a one-year longitudinal randomized control study, 1,856 Danish divorcees participated in an online intervention program, which started within a week of their divorces becoming legal. After a 12-month follow-up, researchers discovered that the online therapy intervention was effective in reducing adverse mental health related effects of divorce, such as symptoms of anxiety, depression, and somatization.


Going through the divorce process can be confusing, frustrating, and emotional. It is normal to feel a range of emotions and to even question your decision-making, at times. When you have an impartial counselor on your side, you can learn more about divorce proceedings, explore your options, and have a safe space to process what you’re experiencing. Do you need to consult with a licensed professional before determining whether you should file for a contested or uncontested divorce? Reach out to one of our counselors today, and they can help you understand which option would be best for your situation.

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