A Massachusetts Uncontested Divorce, also known as a 1A divorce, means that the parties have a full agreement prior to filing for divorce. In order to have a full agreement the parties need to agree to terms regarding the division of assets, liabilities, personal property, health insurance, spousal support (alimony) and child custody and support, if applicable.
An uncontested divorce is generally preferable over a contested divorce. It minimizes the hostility between the parties, saves on legal fees and allows the parties to determine the terms of their divorce. If children are involved, then it is best to reach an agreement without the acrimony regularly involved in a contested divorce.
There are several approaches to obtain an uncontested divorce. The primary methods include mediation, collaborative and direct negotiation.
Mediation typically means that the parties hire a neutral person to assist them in reaching an agreement. The neutral helps the parties come to a consensus based on the law and each party’s position. Each party can have an attorney present during mediation. Alternatively, client’s will consult with an attorney prior to mediation to understand the likely outcomes and during mediation to advise the client on the negotiated terms. Mediation is not binding.
Collaborative Divorce comes in different forms, but typically means that each party obtains counsel. The counsel agrees that if an agreement cannot be reached, then the counsel agrees not to represent the parties in a contested divorce. The benefit of Collaborative Divorce is that it incentivizes the parties to reach a mediated agreement. The drawback of Collaborative Divorce is that it requires the parties to start the process over with new counsel.
Direct Negotiation is where the parties work out the issues without a neutral. This is best used when the issues are limited. Examples include marriages where the parties have limited assets to divide or where the issues are limited to the division of personal property. In direct negotiation the parties generally need the assistance of counsel to inform them what issues need to be resolved and the parties directly negotiate with each other to agree to the terms. Direct negotiation is the most cost effective approach.
An Uncontested Divorce is not always the best option. If one party is a victim of domestic abuse (physical or verbal), financially controlled by the other party or does not feel comfortable negotiating with the other party, then the uncontested divorce process is generally unsuccessful. A party always has the option of stopping the uncontested process and proceeding with a contested divorce at any time.
To learn more about the Contested Divorce Process click here.
No. One attorney for each party. The alternative to this rule is that the attorney acts as a mediator and does not represent either party.
The short answer is no. Neither party is required to have an attorney, but a good attorney will guide the parties what they need to do after filling an Uncontested Divorce through the process. At the end of the process, the parties will have an enforceable agreement that addresses all of parties needs.