CHARLESTON UNCONTESTED DIVORCE ATTORNEY JAY MCMILLIAN
WHAT IS CONSIDERED AN UNCONTESTED DIVORCE?
Often potential clients walk into a consultation and begin our conversation by telling me that the divorce they seek is uncontested and that it shouldn't be difficult to manage. More times than not when the consultation begins in this manner, one of two things is going on in the client's mind. One, they have equated that a divorce based upon one-year continuous separation is automatically an "uncontested divorce," and two, they have not discussed or considered the impact that the broad issues of divorce (like child custody and visitation, child support, property division, and alimony) will have on the administration of the divorce.
As any Family Law Attorney in South Carolina will tell you, an uncontested divorce will consist of two primary elements:
- The grounds for divorce will be based upon one-year continuous separation (no fault grounds); and
- All the other issues of divorce are settled and reduced to an agreement or not relevant to the divorce
The broad issues of divorce drive the bus on determining whether a divorce matter really is uncontested. Can you and your spouse agree on who will have custody of the children? Can you agree that neither of you will seek alimony? Maybe you have no children and just want to split the funds in the joint checking account and remove some household goods from the home. Do you own a home as a couple or do you rent? These issues must be resolved between the parties by agreement in order to qualify the divorce action as uncontested.
You and your spouse may have been separated for over a year and have a no-fault grounds to support a final divorce, but if there is still disagreement over any of the issues incident to the divorce then that is a contested matter.
WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF AN UNCONTESTED DIVORCE?
There are two very straightforward yet important benefits that come with an uncontested divorce. The first is a statement of the obvious, the legal costs associated with an uncontested divorce can be thousands of dollars less expensive that the costs associated with a contested divorce. The second, and more important reason, is that an uncontested divorce has allowed you and your spouse to open the dialogue to resolve the issues related to the divorce and not leave these issues to be decided by a Family Court Judge, whom will not have any intimate knowledge of the family dynamic in the home and the priorities of each party in the divorce.
DO I NEED AN AGREEMENT IN PLACE BEFORE HIRING AN ATTORNEY?
The short answer here is no. In fact, the services of an attorney are indispensable in helping you identify the issues that must be specifically addressed in any agreement drafted pursuant to an uncontested divorce. Beyond the need for the expertise of an attorney to spot legal issues, a third party perspective is vital in matters of negotiation and are quite necessary to move all parties towards settlement and closure.
CAN BOTH PARTIES BE DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN THE PROCESS?
The answer to this is yes, but does come with one necessary disclosure. In my experience, the most efficient and timely uncontested divorce cases I have administered have been that way because of the participation of both parties in the process. However, it must be noted . . . I can only represent one party to the divorce!! Ethical Rules prevent me from dispensing legal advice to both parties in a divorce case. It is not a requirement that the other spouse have an attorney to complete the process, but I am your attorney only! At the very least, especially when a settlement is reached and documented, I always disclose to the other spouse that he/she may want to seek their own legal counsel to review the agreement prior to signing.
WHEN CAN I FILE AN UNCONTESTED DIVORCE?
An uncontested divorce can be filed as soon as you and your spouse have been separated for more than one year and we have drafted and executed an agreement that resolves all issues of the divorce.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO HIRE THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM FOR MY UNCONTESTED DIVORCE?
I charge flat fees for all uncontested divorces that I administer out of this office. When the case in a true uncontested divorce, I can estimate the time needed to handle all the necessary matters and work efficiently to resolve the divorce. It provides the client the benefit of knowing the total costs of all all services up front with no surprise fees for additional work or expenses. It also allows me to work more efficiently in that I do not have to keep up with hourly charges and do tedious record keeping. The flat fee charged can vary based upon the complexity or simplicity of the issues involved and how quickly these issues can be resolved.
Whether you live in Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, North Charleston, West Ashley, Summerville, Goose Creek, Moncks Corner, James Island, Johns Island, Walterboro, Beaufort, or any of the other wonderful communities of the South Carolina Low Country, call me at The McMillian Law Firm for your free consultation today!