As you may have realized, my practice does not handle contested divorce, child custody, or child support cases. As a self-care mechanism, I do my best to avoid certain areas of practice that increase the chances of exposure to vicarious trauma. Between you, me, and the fence post, DM cases tend to be fraught with emotion and I do not handle others' emotions as well as I did in my younger days. (If you knew me in my younger days, shhhhh.) So DM cases are a hard stop for me.
That said, I also have great memories of my first divorce. My ex-husband is still my Best Foo Friend (holla for Dave and the boys) and my kid's godfather. After we went together to a paralegal office to sign our legal separation papers in the mid-aughts, we went across the street to Red Lobster where he treated me to surf-and-turf. We ate the hell out of those Cheddar Bay biscuits. We shared custody of our dog, also named Biscuit! A while later when it was time to fully divorce, I was super-broke. He gifted me the divorce papers. Such a good guy.
I have met exactly one other lady in adulthood who divorced her best friend, was later roommates with him, and continued to name him as her life insurance beneficiary. That lady was a delightful hippy with long golden curls and a leather jacket. I always wondered what happened to that woman and her ex. I could have handled their divorce, had I been an attorney at the time.
But I won't do yours--unless you are as cool as me and Pat.
No Contest, No Drama, No Problem
An uncontested divorce is a type of divorce in which both spouses agree on all aspects of the divorce, including child custody, visitation, child support, property division, and (though rare) spousal support. This tends to make it a much faster and cheaper process than a contested divorce, which can take months or even years to resolve. The key lies in the fact that for most if not all of these issues, as long as everyone agrees to a resolution, then that resolution is found by a judge to be in the parties' (or kids', if applicable) best interest--within reason. Some judges make you have a hearing, and some don't.
In Kansas, there are three main options for pursuing an uncontested divorce:
Do-it-yourself: If you and your spouse are able to agree on all aspects of your divorce, you may be able to file for divorce yourself without the assistance of an attorney. The Kansas Judicial Council provides a variety of resources to help you with this process, including a self-help guide and online forms. If you are capable of reading and following instructions--and sometimes reaching out to the clerk of the court for further instructions on process, which can sometimes differ from the KJC instructions--and if you are capable of understanding and filling in the blanks, you may be able to handle your own divorce. Just be aware that some judges and clerks do not have patience for errors or for questions about the process!
Attorney-assisted and/or mediated: If you don't quite understand those DIY instructions and need some help with the divorce process but you don't want to hire an attorney full-time, you may want to consider hiring an attorney for limited assistance. An attorney can help you draft your divorce agreement, review your paperwork, or even file your case with the court if your fee agreement says so. In these cases, the attorney may sign on to represent one of the parties, or neither of the parties. They cannot represent both of you, but they might be able to act as a neutral party to help work out any of the remaining issues you have between you. Just keep in mind that this is not therapy, and there will be limits to the services the attorney can offer based on the rules of professional conduct for attorneys (or attorneys acting as neutrals). If this sounds like the right situation for you, I even have a specific scheduling tool for the two of you.
Attorney-drafted/limited representation: If you have complex financial or child custody issues, or if you simply want the peace of mind of having an attorney represent you, you may want to hire an attorney to draft your agreement and represent one of you throughout the divorce process. This may be right for couples who are not looking for a fight, but who realize that at least one of you needs representation. It requires a lot of trust and compromise, but it may help you preserve your relationship for the future. In this scenario, it really might be best if you have worked out most if not all issues between yourselves but simply need assistance to pass the scrutiny of the court. Just note that you need an attorney who is comfortable with having an unrepresented party on the other side, and who is as committed as you are to keeping the peace. This might include a caveat limiting the representation: they may leave the case if the other party turns it into a contest.
How Do We Know Which is Right For Us?
The best option for the two of you will depend on your individual circumstances and budget, as well as the relationship dynamic and confidence you have in carrying out legal tasks. If you and your spouse are able to agree on all aspects of your divorce and you are comfortable with the legal process, then you may be able to file for divorce yourself. However, if you have any questions or concerns, it is always a good idea to consult with an attorney. We can help you decide how much assistance you need.
If you do decide to hire an attorney, be sure to choose an attorney who has experience in uncontested divorces. (If you and your soon-to-be ex are NOT in agreement and you expect a fight, even on some aspects of the case, you should hire a dedicated family law attorney.) If you have a few simple issues to work out but are hopeful of reaching compromise, consider asking the attorney to act as a neutral and/or to help with drafting, but not to represent either of you. You should also ask about the attorney's fees and costs upfront, as well as who is responsible for payment and how often.
Recap and Overview of Options
If you choose to file for divorce yourself, you will need to complete all of the necessary paperwork and file it with the court. Look through the entire library of documents needed to complete the process before you begin. Whichever of you is the Plaintiff will also need to serve your spouse with divorce papers or obtain a voluntary entry of appearance to show that service is not necessary. The court will then schedule a hearing date; the clerk can help you with this. At the hearing, the judge will review your paperwork and grant the divorce if everything is in order. You may or may not actually have to appear in person, depending on the judge's preferences and your preparedness.
If you choose to hire an attorney for limited assistance, the attorney may be able to help you with all aspects of the divorce process, including:
Drafting your divorce or parenting time agreement
Reviewing your paperwork for accuracy
Filing your case with the court, in some instances
Representing you at the divorce hearing, if that is part of the fee agreement
Mediating parts of the agreement, if you have hired the attorney as a neutral representing neither party
If you choose to hire an attorney to draft your divorce agreement and represent you throughout the divorce process, the attorney may handle everything for you. This can include:
Drafting your divorce agreement or parenting time agreement
Negotiating with your spouse on your behalf
Filing your case with the court
Providing you with advice throughout the process
Keeping your confidences where necessary
Representing you at all court hearings
No matter which option you choose, it is important to be prepared emotionally and financially for the divorce process. This means having all of your financial information in order--including lists of your shared and individual assets and being prepared to discuss your child custody and visitation preferences. It is also important to be patient and understanding, as the divorce process can be stressful and time-consuming. But having a lifelong bestie who will meet you halfway across the country for rock concerts is one-in-a-million, and it's worth the effort.
If vacationing with your ex sounds like your jam, you are welcome to contact me for a consultation on your uncontested divorce. Reach out individually or together for more information and to select a plan that's right for the two of you.