Can My Santa Rosa Divorce Be Uncontested?

June 28, 2011, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone
By Law Offices of James V. Sansone on June 28, 2011 8:00 AM |

uncontested-divorce2.jpgMany proceedings for dissolution and legal separation end up as uncontested proceedings. This is probably the result of the fact that California is a no fault state. It may also reflect growing movements to remove the adversarial hostilities from family law proceedings, and the growing awareness that no one "wins" a family law dispute. Anyway, if the parties are able to agree on custody, support, and property issues without the necessity of a contested trial their dissolution will be "uncontested." Decreasing the number of contested proceedings reduces the strife involved in proceedings for termination of a marriage and substantially reduces the expense otherwise involved in a dissolution proceeding.

Don't be easily misled by the label "uncontested." It does not mean "free to do as you please." It often means simply that an express agreement exists, express or implied, with the other party to act within a narrow range of agreed behavior. Within that range, the other side simply will stand by and take no action. What uncontested often means is that people are able to reach settlement together outside of structured court battlegrounds; not simply that matters are not contested.

Proceedings may be uncontested if the parties stipulate, in writing or orally before the court, for settlement of the case or if the respondent has taken no steps to participate in the proceedings, and the matter must go forward in his or her total absence by default.

When the dissolution is ready to be finalized the court must require proof of the facts stated in the petition before it can grant judgment for the requested relief. A prove-up hearing is required in the unusual case in which the petitioner is unable to establish the grounds for the relief sought in the petition by the use of an affidavit or the declaration, despite the uncontested or default nature of the proceeding.

The evidence presented will, of course, vary with the relief requested. In all cases, the petitioner must present evidence of proof of service on the respondent and proof of the grounds asserted as a basis for the dissolution, or legal separation.

Anybody going through a legal separation or dissolution proceeding should consult with an experienced divorce attorney. Even if a proceeding is truly uncontested there are still many errors that can be made that can come back to haunt on or more of the parties years later. I just recently signed up several cases where the parties attempted to go through the process on their own to save money. The parties have been divorced for several years, but since mistakes were made in their pleadings they were forced to "reopen" their case and litigate issues they thought were solved before. This litigation actually cost them more money now than it would have if they had just hired an attorney and completed the process correctly the first time. Saving money now will not always save you money later.

The Law Offices of James V. Sansone offers a full range of family law legal services including divorce, paternity, child custody and visitation matters, child support, spousal support, alimony, domestic violence, division of property, grandparent visitation and custody. We are located in Santa Rosa, California and serve clients throughout Sonoma County, Mendocino County, and Lake County, including Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Kenwood, Glen Ellen, Windsor, Bodega Bay, Ukiah, Willits, Clearlake, Lakeport, and Kelseyville.