Handling An Agreed Or Uncontested Divorce
Although the possibility of divorce is never an easy decision, many couples are able to reach a resolution before the process begins, thereby allowing them to have an agreed or uncontested divorce. This means that the spouses have worked through and resolved all of the issues involved in the divorce and are ready to sign off on the settlement documents that will be filed with the court. Normally, no pleadings are filed or lawsuits initiated until these settlement documents have been signed and notarized by both parties.
Determining Child Custody
If there are minor children born to the marriage, a permanent parenting plan must be agreed upon. This plan includes a co-parenting schedule for the school year and holidays. This schedule may be as flexible or detailed as the parties want.
For example, the so-called “day-to-day” schedule for the alternate residential parent may range from every other weekend to alternating weeks of co-parenting with the children. Once that decision has been reached, the parties must then decide how to allocate the holidays between them. These usually include Christmas, Thanksgiving, summer break, spring break and birthdays. Parents can also choose to designate how Halloween, July 4 th and other school-free days will be shared.
The options for how to fairly allocate holidays to maximize quality time with the family are many, from alternating years to splitting the holidays in half. Plans must also indicate who will claim the children on their taxes (which can be alternated as well), the amount of child support to be paid and how uninsured medical expenses will be addressed.
Signing A Marital Dissolution Agreement
The second document that both parties must sign is called a marital dissolution agreement or MDA. This document explains how the spouses will divide all assets and debts. This includes any and all real property, personal property, vehicles, bank accounts, retirement and investment accounts, and debts.
If any of this property is financed or encumbered by loans, the MDA will also indicate who will continue to be financially responsible after the divorce is finalized. All debts, including credit cards, loans, taxes, etc., must also be specifically listed.
Often, MDAs will require refinancing of real property to remove one spouse’s name from liability. Many times, quit claim deeds are also signed by the spouse not retaining the property. Encumbered vehicles may also need to be refinanced or traded in.
If the parties have retirement accounts or investments, those must similarly be distributed. Depending upon the type of retirement account, your attorney may need to draft additional forms. For example, dividing up a 401(k) between spouses requires a specialized form called a qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO. These must be sent to the account’s plan administrator for approval before being submitted to the divorce court. Joint bank accounts will need to be closed or changed into one spouse’s name. If the parties have not already divided their personal property, the MDA can specify what each party receives and how the transfer will be accomplished.
Finalizing An Uncontested Divorce
Once both the parenting plan and MDA have been signed by both parties and filed with the court, your waiting period begins. For divorces without minor children, this period is 60 days. If you do have minor children, the period is 90 days.
At the end of the waiting period, the plaintiff will attend a final hearing with his or her attorney. The defendant’s presence is not required. The hearing will result in a final decree of divorce.
All divorcing parents are required to attend a parenting class prior to the date of the final hearing. The final decree is the document signed by the judge that declares the parties divorced and addresses any name changes for the wife.
Schedule An Appointment
If you’re interested in the uncontested divorce process, contact the lawyers at McKellar & Easter, Attorneys at Law, for help. To schedule a free initial telephone consultation, call 865-566-0125 or fill out this contact form.