Uncontested Divorces in Rhode Island During the Covid Pandemic (A contactless divorce)
The difference between an uncontested divorce and an uncontested hearing.
An uncontested divorce hearing is not necessarily the same as an uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, the married couple decide to end the marriage and have an agreement as to property division, etc. This usually happens when the marriage is relatively short, there are no children and alimony is not an issue.
It also happens 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.
An uncontested (or nominal) hearing is when, after a period of negotiation, whether it be weeks or months or even years, the couple finally comes to an agreement and has what is called an uncontested hearing, as opposed to a trial where the judge makes all the decisions. While those cases may ultimately have an uncontested hearing they are certainly not uncontested divorces. They just arrived at an agreement and resolved with an uncontested hearing as opposed to a trial
However, if the couple on their own, or perhaps through mediation, come to a sound agreement before even filing the divorce or shortly after filing it, they usually benefit from a reduction in the cost of attorney fees. Many attorneys will take such cases on a fixed fee and charge no additional fee if the case is truly uncontested, and that’s what I do. But we think it’s very important to have an attorney represent you in almost all cases.
Do you already have an agreement with your spouse?
If you have an agreement you can hire us to file and process your divorce. However, you and your spouse cannot use the same attorney. An attorney can only represent one person at a time.
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 and it would still be considered and uncontested divorce.
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.
But don't you and I have to meet?
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 uncontested divorce without ever having to leave the comfort of your own home.