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What Is An Amicable Divorce?

It is common to hear lawyers, family therapists, divorce coaches, and other experts claim that an amicable divorce is the best possible “way out” of the marriage for both parties. But what is an amicable divorce and what does this mean from a legal point of view?

Amicable Divorce

what is an amicable divorce?

What Is An Amicable Divorce?

In legal terms: an amicable divorce is referred to as uncontested divorce.

An uncontested divorce is a divorce decree that neither party is fighting. It can occur if both parties agree to dissolve a marriage and have no disputes over:

  • Alimony or spousal support
  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Property division

An uncontested no fault divorce is available nationwide as a way to terminate the marriage in the shortest possible terms. Some states even provide a more shortened version of the process. This is called simplified dissolution or summary dissolution. It is for couples who do not contest the case and meet several other requirements.

Luckily, to benefit from this type of divorce procedure, the parties do not necessarily have to be adepts of Gwyneth Paltrow style conscious uncoupling. The absence of disputes over the essential terms of the separation (or the spouses’ willingness to negotiate out-of-court) is enough.

steps to an amicable divorce

How To Have An Amicable Divorce?

Let’s start by considering the main steps all men and women need to take to make their separation as simple as possible:

1. Filing of initial divorce papers

Usually, uncontested divorce forms are the same or similar to the papers required to start a contested divorce. And even though the latter procedure may require more paperwork, the initial legal forms for both types of divorce typically include:

  • The petition
  • The summons
  • A case specific cover sheet

The whole set of divorce papers needed in each particular case varies from state to state, as Family Law is state specific in the US. Any unique circumstances of the divorce case are also fundamental.

  • Find and complete the necessary legal forms: The court clerk’s office, local court website, use the help of online divorce forms preparation services
  • Filing: The ready documents should be filed with the relevant local court, following the specific state’s residency requirements. Either party can initiate the case (called the plaintiff or the petitioner). In some states, spouses can even file for divorce as co petitioner. Meaning that they submit the paperwork jointly and avoid the formal procedure for serving divorce papers described below.
  • Cost: At the moment of filing, the plaintiff has to pay a court filing fee. This is a mandatory cost involved in running a case.

The documents are stamped when received, and the clerk’s office provides the plaintiff with a case number. This officially starts the dissolution of marriage.


2. Waiving service of process

Delivering copies of the divorce forms to the non filing spouse (called the defendant or the respondent):

  • Only the spouses who file together as co petitioners can skip it.
  • Service of process is accomplished following specific rules defined by each state
  • Typically either the sheriff’s office, private process server, or an adult who is not a party to the case, can be responsible for the personal service
  • Delivering papers using certified mail with a return receipt is also allowed in some cases

Once served with the divorce paperwork:

  • The defendant has to respond to it
  • If neither party wants to dispute any of the petition’s provisions, or the spouses have opted to create a Settlement Agreement, the defendant is to sign the Waiver of Service form
  • It should be noted that each state sets a deadline before which the defendant must file a response with the court


3. Signing a Settlement Agreement

Writing up a divorce Settlement Agreement (which goes by many names, depending on the state) allows the spouses to settle all the disputed issues out-of-court and avoid a trial.

This document is designed to formalize any agreements between the parties concerning child custody and support, spousal maintenance, and property division.

The spouses can create an agreement in advance or after filing, considering the specific state’s rules and timeline requirements. Divorce experts usually recommend hiring a lawyer to ensure a fair settlement and avoid missing any significant details.

The written agreement must be signed by both parties, notarized, and filed with the court.


4. Final uncontested hearing

Once the court has all the necessary divorce papers and the settlement agreement, the final court hearing can be scheduled, unless the state requires a cooling-off period.

Such a waiting period implies that the divorce cannot be finalized before the specified time has elapsed. The amount of which can vary from several weeks to several months depending on the state.

When a court hearing is issued, either the plaintiff or both spouses may be obliged to attend, depending on the state’s rules.

This procedure is typically brief and calm. At the uncontested divorce final hearing, the judge reviews the documents and the spouses’ Settlement Agreement. The judge will conclude whether the terms are equitable and comply with family law requirements.

Once the judge approves the Settlement Agreement, it becomes legally binding. This means that both spouses are obligated by law to follow its terms.

The Agreement is also incorporated into the Final Divorce Decree, which is the formal court order that officially terminates the marriage.

friendly divorce options

Friendly Divorce Options

Unlike contested proceedings, where the spouses are highly recommended to hire lawyers to represent their case in court, uncontested divorces are more straightforward. Even though the parties may still need some help at different stages of the process, they can often do without a high-priced full-service attorney.

To divorce amicably and reduce divorce costs, it is worth considering the following alternatives:


A collaborative law process

This option does not imply litigation, though each party has their attorney, similar to traditional divorce. The main feature of a collaborative divorce is that all participants have a common goal. That is to facilitate effective discussion and finding mutually beneficial solutions.

Collaborative divorce allows engaging other experts, like financial specialists, coaches, accountants. To move ahead with a collaborative divorce process, the spouses and their attorneys shall sign a Collaborative Participation Agreement.

This option is best suited for: Couples who want to settle their differences amicably but whose case is not necessarily simple.


Divorce mediation

Divorce mediation is another alternative dispute resolution designed to help the parties reach a mutually beneficial agreement. Unlike a collaborative process where each party has its own lawyer, a divorce mediator works with both parties.

The mediator cannot take sides or provide legal advice. Acting as a neutral third party, a mediator facilitates negotiations between parties to promote understanding and informed decision making.

This option is best suited for: Couples divorces with child related disputes.


Online divorce

The term online divorce commonly refers not to finalizing a divorce online, but to online divorce form preparation.

Dealing with divorce paperwork can be quite complicated and time consuming. Given that any mistake on the forms can require the plaintiff to start the process all over again, this task can be stressful.

Online divorce document drafting services typically take on all the paperwork issues. From selecting the needed forms to filling them out following the numerous state and county rules. By choosing a trusted provider, documents can be accurately completed within a couple of days.

This option is best suited for: Where the spouses agree to proceed without a lawyer.


What Are The Benefits Of An Amicable Divorce?

There are many reasons why settling disputes amicably is the best and most cost efficient way to divorce:

Financial advantages: An uncontested divorce opens the door to alternative dispute resolutions. This has much lower costs than traditional litigation, where attorneys usually charge hourly fees. These non competitive methods prevent the escalation of conflicts, making the whole process less stressful and damaging.

Emotional advantages: An amicable divorce is a long term investment in a future free of grudges and hatred. The best way to move on from a divorce and start a new chapter is to prioritize an amicable divorce.

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535 5th Avenue, 11th Floor,
New York, New York
10017, USA

Berkeley Square House
Berkeley Square, Mayfair
London, W1J 6BD, UK

212 JQ Modern
120 Vyse Street, Hockley
Birmingham, B18 6NF, UK