The Uncontested Divorce Alternative

As a couple approaches a divorce, it may become clear that they will reach agreement on some issues while others may take some time and discussion to work out.  During this process, the spouses may find that they are reaching agreement on a greater number of matters. Their divorce process may become an uncontested divorce in which the parties are agreeing on the major issues and are likely to reach agreement on all issues necessary to the completion of the divorce.

The Alexander Law Firm,  offers an Uncontested Divorce Alternative in an appropriate case (see appropriate case qualifications, below) to represent one spouse for a fixed fee to file for divorce in Travis County. The other spouse may choose to hire a consulting lawyer for the purpose of explaining the meaning of documents and answering information questions.  The consulting lawyer would not be required to represent or appear of record for that spouse in the divorce.

ADVANTAGES OF THE UNCONTESTED DIVORCE ALTERNATIVE

  1. Waiver of Citation—To receive the divorce petition from the court, your spouse need only sign a document called a Waiver of Citation rather than being surprised at home or at work by a uniformed constable or deputy.
  2. One attorney—Only one attorney need be hired (at a flat fee) to complete the divorce process. Your spouse has the option to hire a consulting attorney to review the documents and answer questions, however, that attorney does not appear in the case at court.
  3. A brief court hearing—You and your attorney will appear in court and stand before the judge for a few minutes of mostly yes/no questions by your lawyer. Papers are filed and signed. Your marriage is dissolved and your divorce is final.
  4. Depending on how many decisions have been made about property, debts, or other issues, it is possible to finalize and obtain a final decree of divorce in 61 days after expiration of the 60 day waiting period.
  5. If the parties can focus on making decisions and cooperating, it is generally accepted that an uncontested divorce is the most efficient and least expensive way to obtain a Final Decree of Divorce as required by law.

FEES

Based on the factual circumstances of each divorce case, it will be placed in one of two applicable fixed fee structures:

  1. Simple Divorce—Flat Legal Services Fee of $1,500 without children (does not include court filing fees of approximately $315); $2,500 with children (does not include court filing fees of approximately $315). This price includes an agreed divorce, one piece of real property, uncomplicated community and separate estates, allocation of debts, taxes and payment of fees, simple division of any retirement assets with each party keeping benefits in own name, no closely held businesses. Divorces with children will also include standard possession order visitation schedule, child support per Texas statutory guidelines, and health insurance provisions.
  1. More Complex Issues will require additional fees. Examples of more complex issues include an agreed final decree of divorce with children with special parenting plan, if necessary, customized support and possession/visitation schedule, if necessary, and health insurance; provisions for more complex estate, real estate instruments related to division of interests in real property, tax planning if required plus additional fee for expert, if needed, division of retirement benefits, IRAs, pension plans or accounts, plus an additional fee for expert or plan administrators, if needed, and temporary orders during divorce, if needed.

IS YOUR DIVORCE LIKELY TO BE UNCONTESTED?

For your case to be appropriate for the Uncontested Divorce Alternative at the Alexander Law Firm, the following must be true:

  1. YOU HAVE THE INFORMATION YOU NEED TO MAKE DECISIONS ABOUT HOW ALL YOUR MARITAL PROPERTY AND DEBTS SHOULD BE DIVIDED.You are comfortable that you know or can gather information on all of your and your spouse’s ownership interests in real or personal property, debts, income, bank accounts, safety deposit boxes, and the like that are necessary to divide all of your joint and separate property between the two of you.If you are not comfortable with this assumption, we will have to consider whether we need to do “discovery,” which are legal procedures to get information from your spouse and/or third parties. If this is necessary, additional legal fees will be charged. If the information needed through discovery is limited and the parties can agree to provide it on an expedited basis, we may be able to continue your case as an uncontested divorce. Generally, the need for use of discovery procedures will make your case inappropriate for the Uncontested Divorce Alternative.
  2. YOU AND YOUR SPOUSE HAVE WORKED OUT LIVING ARRANGEMENTS, TEMPORARY USE OF PROPERTY, POSSESSION AND ACCESS TO CHILDREN WHILE YOUR DIVORCE IS PENDING.You and your spouse agree on living arrangements, use of vehicles, possession, visitation and access to your children, payment of bills and living expenses, etc. while the divorce is pending.If you have not or cannot agree, you may need to have these details put into an enforceable Temporary Order signed by the court, which will be in force until your divorce is finalized and granted.  For an additional fee, the Alexander Law Firm can prepare a Temporary Order agreeable to and signed by you and your spouse and, after your divorce is filed, it can be presented to the Court for signature and entry.
  3. YOU DO NOT HAVE ANY FEAR ABOUT ANYTHING YOUR SPOUSE MIGHT DO WHILE THE DIVORCE IS PENDING.Temporary Restraining Orders, Temporary Injunctions, or Protective Orders in a divorce case are court orders prohibiting or requiring certain actions between the parties or involving the children.  A case in which these types of orders are necessary to protect the parties is not appropriate for an uncontested divorce alternative.

WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED IN THE FLAT LEGAL SERVICES FEE FOR THE UNCONTESTED DIVORCE?

The matters listed below are not included in the Flat Legal Services Fee for the Uncontested Divorce Alternative

  1. Court costs, filing fees, recording fees, and other out-of-pocket expenses incurred for your case;
  2. Service of citation;
  3. Discovery (legal processes to obtain evidence, documents, or testimony from your spouse or third parties);
  4. Mediation (a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution that uses a trained neutral mediator to conduct a settlement negotiation between the parties and their attorneys);
  5. Valuations, accountings, appraisals, or audits related to anything in the marital estate;
  6. QDROs (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) or other kinds of orders or documents necessary to divide IRAs, retirement accounts, pension plans or pension accounts;
  7. Any court filings that would have the effect of vacating, altering or amending the Final Decree of Divorce after it has been signed and entered by the Court.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  1. What is an uncontested divorce?When you and your spouse have talked through the major issues in dividing your property and debts and the possession of and access to your children, if any, and you have no major differences in how this could be accomplished, you are probably well on your way to having an uncontested divorce.  The next step would be to agree that one of you would consult an attorney, file for divorce, work with your attorney to convert these understandings to legally binding documents for each of you to sign and present them to the court.
  2. What are the benefits of an uncontested divorce?In an uncontested divorce, the spouses take more control of the process and reduce the cost of the divorce.  The interaction with the court process is minimized.  For example, by signing a waiver of citation, a formal service of citation by a court officer is eliminated. The spouse who files the divorce is the only party who goes to court with the lawyer. A hearing with the judge lasts a few minutes to “prove up” the terms of your divorce decree and for the judge to formally enter the decree in the court records. The greatest benefit of an uncontested divorce is often its lower cost and greater efficiency. When the parties’ main communications are passed back and forth between their lawyers, attorney’s fees increase quickly and the process often drags out.  The parties may still end up settling all the issues in their case and avoiding contested court proceedings, however, it often comes at a greater cost.
  3. What is the cost of an uncontested divorce?The fixed fee for a simple divorce starts at $1,500 without children and $2,500 with children and includes standard possession order visitation schedule, child support per Texas statutory guidelines, and health insurance, is appropriate for a simple estate, uncomplicated community and separate property, allocation of debts, taxes, and payment of fees, each party keeping retirement benefits in own name, no closely held businesses.Additional fees will be charged if you have an agreed divorce with customized child custody and access arrangements, appropriate for a more complicated estate, may contain separate and community estates, tax planning if required for an additional fee, temporary orders, if required.
  4. How long does it take to get an uncontested divorce? Once the sixty (60) day waiting period after filing of the divorce is satisfied, the court can grant a divorce.  The parties file their petition for divorce and provide the attorney with all the information needed to complete the final decree of divorce and any additional documents needed to transfer property. The attorney must then prepare the documents required for the court to grant the divorce before the end of the waiting period. The parties could then obtain their divorce at the earliest available court date after the expiration of the 60 day waiting period.