After the breakdown of a marriage and a difficult separation, a lengthy and painful divorce is not in anyone’s best interest. Another way to proceed is through an uncontested divorce. To achieve the best results for your situation, you may be interested to learn more about what is an uncontested divorce, what the benefits can be for you, your family, and your finances and if there are any disadvantages or situations where an uncontested divorce is not recommended.
What is an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce requires the agreement of both spouses and that one of the three grounds for divorce be met. The three grounds for divorce in Alberta are separation for at least one year, adultery or cruelty. Otherwise, the decision to grant a divorce rests with the court.
The issues that are usually detailed in a divorce agreement usually include the following:
  • Division of matrimonial property;
  • Spousal support (amount, duration and terms, if any); and
  • Child custody, access and child support, where applicable.
Normally, a divorce judgment entails all the terms of the divorce, though it is possible for a couple to be granted a divorce before they have dealt with all the issues (e.g., the division of matrimonial property remains outstanding). A judge might not grant a divorce if arrangements have not been made about the children or if the parties intentionally mislead the court (e.g., saying they have been separated for 12 months when it has only been one month).
In order to obtain an uncontested divorce, both spouses must retain independent legal counsel to review the terms for the divorce to be binding. Legal counsel can help clients to navigate through the complex legal forms and procedures and to negotiate the terms of these issues in a written agreement.
Benefits for You
The benefits of an uncontested divorce for you personally are many, including a quicker resolution, less stressful process and a greater degree of privacy and control.
An uncontested divorce can be resolved more expeditiously than if the divorce is contested. Often an uncontested divorce can be granted within six months instead of several years. By contrast, when spouses disagree over key issues in the divorce and fight on that basis, the tension tends to escalate and cause both partners to fight over how to measure important metrics or what evidence is necessary to resolve a dispute. Disputes take time to resolve and sometimes a family law court or an agreed upon arbitrator is the only way to achieve a resolution. Failing to come to an agreement is why a contested divorce takes much longer than an uncontested divorce.
In addition to being resolved more quickly, an uncontested divorce often allows the parties to remain civil throughout the process. Without the intense conflict that comes with contested divorce hearings, the parties are often able to resolve matters with far less acrimony.
An uncontested divorce also provides greater privacy and control to the parties. The parties negotiate the terms of the divorce privately, while in a contested divorce hearing the counsel for each side make submissions to the judge publicly and any matters the court decides are a matter of public record (with some exceptions). Further, each party’s own lawyer will also provide a certificate of independent legal advice, which is beneficial for both parties in obtaining the divorce as it is likely to avoid having the divorce agreement that both parties could have input in and both consented to being contested in court later.
Benefits for your Family
Finally, there are significant benefits for your family when you proceed with a divorce in an uncontested manner. All of the benefits to you personally and financially also accrue to your family, so you are likely to be a better parent, child, sibling and friend when you are emotionally and financially healthy. If you can place the interests of your children ahead of your own, the impact of your separation and divorce may be less impactful on your children.
Family and close friends are often placed into impossible positions during a contested divorce and may feel forced to “choose sides”. Often those closest to us are required to provide evidence through affidavits or oral testimony during a contested divorce, which can put undue strain on family members. When there is custody and access to decide, it is usually better for the children when their parents can create a mutually agreeable schedule instead of a schedule created by a judge.
Benefits for your Finances
The cost savings associated with an uncontested divorce is perhaps the most apparent advantage. When both spouses are civil and are proactively sharing information and documents and trying to reach a mutually agreeable resolution, the legal costs for both sides can be significantly lower. This means that any savings achieved on the legal process can be used to live on afterwards for you and your children.
Are There Any Disadvantages to an Uncontested Divorce?
Any disadvantages that result have less to do with whether the divorce is contested and more to do with the impact, including the finality of a divorce. For example, one party may no longer have to pay additional premiums to keep the other covered for employee health benefits while the other party loses out on those benefits as a result of no longer meeting the definition of a spouse.
Being divorced also usually means it is very difficult to renegotiate terms of a divorce thereafter through the court. In the case of Bull v. Bull, 2013 ABQB 366 (CanLII), Ms. Bull sought to set aside a divorce judgment in order to make an application for spousal support. Justice A.W. Germain did not set aside the divorce judgment, but instead he ordered Mr. Bull to pay Ms. Bull spousal support less certain adjustments, including her share of the family debts that accumulated.
When Is an Uncontested Divorce Not Recommended?
An uncontested divorce is not the appropriate process if one or both parties continue to engage in conflict, are unreasonable or fail to negotiate in good faith. In situations where there is a history of abuse or violence, an uncontested divorce is not recommended until after all the issues have been resolved through a fair legal process represented by legal counsel.
Contact Us at LA Law
At LA Law; we have experience helping our clients through divorce law in Spruce Grove, during the most difficult times in their lives and their families’ lives. The combination of a faster, less acrimonious and more private and cost-effective process that preserves the psychological well-being of the family members as much as possible can make an uncontested divorce highly beneficial. Our divorce lawyers in Spruce Grove, Alberta can file for an uncontested divorce in most situations. Contact us today at 780-962-9500 to schedule a consultation about your specific situation.
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