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Do I need an attorney for an uncontested divorce in?

Many divorces in Utah are filed as uncontested divorces. Sometimes an uncontested divorce will involve a stipulated agreement between the divorcing spouses. Other divorces become uncontested by default - meaning that one spouse files for divorce but the other spouse fails to file any response, resulting in a default judgment being entered on behalf of the filing spouse. In either case, the assistance of a Utah divorce attorney can help ensure that your rights are protected and that the process goes as smoothly as possible. Contact us to arrange for an initial confidential divorce consultation.

What's the worst that can happen without an attorney if we both agree on the divorce settlement?

Simply hiring an attorney does not guarantee that everything in your divorce will go exactly as you want. But not having an attorney can sometimes result in disaster. The following is a true account of a  near disaster that occurred largely because an uncontested divorce was filed without the assistance of an attorney. (Names and details have been omitted to preserve client confidentiality.)

Husband and wife had been married for a couple of years. The relationship started good, but began to decline. Wife became pregnant, but the parties informally seperated near the time the baby was due to be delivered. When the baby was born, wife listed no one on the birth certificate as the father. Shortly after the child was born, husband and wife reconciled and moved back in together. But a few months later, they separated again and ultimately decided to file for divorce. To save money, they decided to put together the divorce paperwork themselves. There were no arguments over division of property - they each just kept what they had. And there were no arguments over child care and support - so they left out any mention of child support, child custody, or parent time arrangements. In fact, they left out any reference at all to the existence of a child. No hearings were required. The judge signed the divorce decree. The divorce was done . . . quickly, easily, and cheaply.

But this is where big trouble began.

Three years later, the working relationship between father and mother had deteriorated. They no longer agreed on custody and parent time issues. And they argued over who should pay child support and how much should be required. The mother had placed the child in day care. Unbeknownst to the father, the mother had not told the day care facility that he was in fact the father of the child.

The disagreements between mother and father continued to grow. One day, the father decided to pick his child up from day care. For reasons that only the mother may know for sure, she decided to call the police and report a kidnapping. Police responded and questioned the mother and the day care workers. The day care workers reported to police that the child had been picked up by a man claiming to be the father. But the mother reported that he was not the father.

Police responded to the father's residence, and found him there with the child. They questioned the father, who asserted that he had a right as a parent to pick up his child any time he wanted to. But the police investigation had determined that this man was not listed on the birth certificate, and that the divorce decree made no mention of the child or of his paternity.

Police arrested the father, and charged him with a first-degree felony for child kidnapping. The child was turned over to the mother, and the father sat in jail facing the potential of life in prison.

Ultimately, the case had a happy ending. A defense investigation was able to demonstrate that, both biologically and as a matter of law, the man was indeed the father. Because there had been no action to terminate parental rights and there was no court order regarding custody or parent time, the father had committed no crime. The father was released from jail and all criminal charges were dismissed. And a reasonable resolution was reached regarding custody, parent time, and child support. In the end, filing an uncontested divorce without advice from attorney ended up being rather costly.

This is perhaps an extreme example of what can go wrong when spouses enter an uncontested divorce without seeking the advice of an attorney. But it is also an example of an uncontested divorce that at least one of the spouses thought had no problems. Clearly, the husband was mistaken.

What else can go wrong, realistically?

Having the assistance of an attorney does not mean that you cannot have an uncontested divorce. Many of the problems involved in an uncontested divorce can arise from a lack of knowledge and understanding of the laws relating to divorce. Having a divorce attorney on your side means that you will be able to go through the process better informed. And better information generally leads to better results.

While the example given above is absolutely true, most uncontested divorces will not end up in this kind of nightmare scenario. Still, there is plenty that can go wrong. Here are some areas of concern in which the assistance of an attorney can be helpful.

Finding an Attorney for Uncontested Divorces in Utah

The laws and procedures for a Utah divorce are complicated - even when the divorcing spouses are seeking an uncontested divorce. Contact us to arrange for an initial consultation for your divorce case.

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by Stephen W. Howard, P.C.

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