contested uncontested divorce

The Mediation Option for Contested and Uncontested

Throughout history, people have approached disagreements in two ways: peaceful resolution through conversation, or adversarial conflict and war. The same can be said about the divorce process. Arizona defines two categories of divorce: uncontested and contested.

Generally, an uncontested divorce means that the spouses agree on everything, resulting in a low cost and limited conflict route to getting a divorce. A contested divorce, on the other hand, is when spouses are not in agreement and generally are thought to battle their divorce out in court, leading to high costs and a lengthy process.

Divorce mediation breaks this misconception. Regardless of whether you and your spouse currently agree on everything, or are experiencing high conflict and do not agree, you do not need to battle in court, pay high lawyers’ fees, or have a lengthy divorce process.

Mediation: Option for Contested and Uncontested Cases

The mediation process can be used by any couple seeking a divorce in Arizona, no matter their conflict level. An experienced, specially-trained professional divorce mediator can help spouses come to agreements on all divorce issues.

The Process

The mediation process follows what people consider the “uncontested divorce” path. Instead of involving a judge and lawyers, divorce mediation provides a confidential, safe space for you to meet and come to agreements. At The Aurit Center for Divorce Mediation, we draft your Petition, which begins the divorce process and is signed by the Petitioner, one of the spouses. Unlike in litigation, where your Petition is filled with demands, we simply note that you are in mediation to resolve your divorce and include the requirements under Arizona law,

1) Your marriage is “irretrievably broken,” meaning there is no possibility that you and your spouse plan on staying together.
2) You plan on agreeing to the division of all assets and debts.
3) You plan on agreeing to whether spousal maintenance is awarded.

If you have children, we further include:

1) You plan on agreeing to who has legal and physical custody of your child(ren).
2) You plan on agreeing to a parenting plan, in which you determine the parenting time schedule.
3) You plan on agreeing as to who will pay and for how much child support will be.

As you can see from the list above, “you plan on agreeing” to each of these items in mediation, meaning you could be in agreement now, or could not be in agreement at all. Creating these agreements is the purpose of mediation.

In your mediation meetings, the Petition is signed together, instead of serving the other spouse at their home or business by the use of a sheriff or process server. This makes the service less expensive, less time-consuming, and lower conflict. Your mediator will help you and your spouse reach agreement on all issues, and will finally draft your documents for your review. Your final document is referred to as a Consent Decree, which is ultimately signed by both spouses and submitted to the court for approval. The Consent Decree is a culmination of all the agreements you and your spouse reached, which then become orders of the court.

How is This Different from a Default Divorce?

A default divorce in Arizona is an option in which spouses agree to every element of their divorce, but do not file a Consent Decree. Simply, one spouse follows the same steps to file a Petition, as described above, and “serves” it on the other spouse. In your Petition, you will list all agreements that you have reached regarding your divorce. If the spouse served with the Petition does not respond to the court, the judge will simply ratify what was included in your Petition, forming what is called a Default Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.

A default is not recommended if you have assets, debts, or children. We caution against a default, as your agreement will more than likely lack sufficient complexity and discussion of necessary issues, resulting in problems with your Default Decree in the future. Such issues can include missing information that is necessary for the court to implement a specific agreement, conflict building between you and your spouse over agreements that were never reached, and more.

Conclusion

Although it appears that you can only participate in the uncontested divorce process if you and your spouse agree on everything, that is not the case. Mediation can turn the most contested divorce into an uncontested one. We suggest you consider this important option prior to filing a unilateral Petition and engaging in a damaging litigation process.