Uncontested Divorce -Warwick, RI Divorce Lawyer
Almost all divorces start out on what is known as the “nominal” (uncontested divorce) calendar. The expectation is that the parties will be given a certain amount of time to resolve their differences, if any, and present their agreement to the court. An experienced divorce lawyer will know if this approach makes sense for you. It makes sense for most couples as everyone benefits from trying to resolve their divorce without a trial.
However, if after a reasonable amount of time has passed and it appears that the couple cannot come to an agreement they are placed on the trial calendar with a discovery schedule and ultimately a trial date. That doesn’t mean that the case can’t still be concluded by agreement and without a contested trial. It just means the clock is ticking and there is now a deadline set. But if the couple doesn’t come to an agreement in time the case will go to trial and a judge will make the decisions.
Most divorces end in an uncontested “nominal” hearing even if the case was hotly contested for months or even years, as opposed to ending in an actual trial.
Typical Uncontested Divorces
But there are many divorcing couples that either start off with an agreement or are close enough to an agreement that they are able to stay on the uncontested divorce calendar and complete their divorce without conflict and without a trial. This often happens when the marriage is relatively short, there are no children and alimony is not an issue. The parties may or may not each hire a divorce lawyer but it is always best to have representation.
Uncontested divorces also occur frequently when a couple has been married a long time, any children they had are already adults, the assets of the couple are minimal or easily divisible, and alimony is not an issue. That’s not to say that couples with very complex situations never present with an uncontested divorce, it’s just not as common. But sometimes even couples with challenging child placement issue and extensive assets work together and are able to come to an agreement without any discord.
How Does an Uncontested Divorce Work?
Divorces are as different as people’s circumstances are, but there are some common patterns in a typical uncontested divorce. The plaintiff files the petition and other documents, including a document that describes the party’s financial circumstances. The other party, the defendant, must be served the papers. In most uncontested cases the defendant isn’t surprised one day by someone handing them a summons. Usually, the defendant is told to expect the documents and service may even be arranged by appointment.
The Defendant may or may not file an answer to the case. In an uncontested case, there may be no consequences to that failure though they technically may be defaulted if they don’t file an answer. Even that isn’t fatal if the parties are in agreement, but the Defendant is taking a lot on faith if they don’t properly answer the case.
If the parties are in agreement there may be no discovery done, such as interrogatories, depositions, etc. and a good divorce lawyer will make sure their client knows that there are risks to that as well. Not doing discovery presumes that the other party isn’t hiding anything, but many spouses proceed that way.
What is a Nominal Hearing?
The Nominal Hearing is a hearing which results in the divorce being heard and granted by the judge by agreement of the parties. Essentially, the parties testify as to certain facts to establish jurisdiction and to inform the court of the factual basis upon which the court can grant the divorce and the parties’ agreement. The plaintiff’s divorce lawyer presents testimony from their client with leading questions and generally there is no cross examination as the nominal divorce is a cooperative effort. The defendant’s attorney usually does the same.
After the parties present their case, with or without a written agreement, the court recites certain facts and awards the parties their agreed upon relief. One of the attorneys will present an Interlocutory Decree, which is a temporary decree codifying the agreement, but the parties remain married until the Final Decree is entered about 90 days later. When the final decree is entered, the parties are officially divorced.
Don't have an agreement? Your Divorce Lawyer will help you
If you have an agreement you can hire us to file and process your divorce. However, you and your spouse cannot use the same divorce lawyer. An attorney can only represent one person at a time. If you don’t have an agreement but think your case should be uncontested we can help you come to an agreement. Of course, if your divorce is contested, we can help you with that, as well.
It is possible and common for one spouse to retain us and the other to represent themselves as long as it is clear to both parties that we only represent the spouse who hired us. Divorces are done like this all the time, but if for some reason the agreement breaks down the unrepresented spouse may have to hire their own attorney because we can only represent one party to a divorce. It is unethical to do otherwise.
What if we don't have an agreement?
If you don’t have an agreement, but agree in principle, we can formalize your agreement for you in a way that will be acceptable to the court and present it to the court in a legally sufficient manner in an uncontested or “nominal” hearing.
What about Covid & social distancing?
Covid has actually made uncontested divorces a little easier. Trials are more difficult, but uncontested hearings are done by video, for now, and so are not only germ free, but quicker and less stressful.
The hearings are scheduled for a particular time on a particular day instead of everyone having to show up at court at 9 am and wait for their turn. And you get to do them from the comfort of your own home and not in the presence of your soon to be ex spouse and dozens of spectators.
An uncontested divorce can be virtually completely by computer – contactless.
Don't I have to meet with my divorce lawyer?
We really don’t have to meet in person at all, but we certainly can meet in a safe, socially distant manner. However, I can conduct meetings by video and I am one of the few attorneys in the state who took advantage of the Governor’s executive order allowing video notarization by becoming certified to do so. There are documents such as the Divorce petition and the Statement of Financial Affairs which require notarization, but all that can be done by video if you’re not comfortable doing it in person and payments also can be made electronically. So, it is possible to do a truly contactless, uncontested divorce without ever having to leave the comfort of your own home.