What you need to know about the Cost of Uncontested Divorce in Arkansas
Divorce is rarely convenient. No matter how far the marriage has fallen into the doldrums, ending the union is always difficult emotionally and, almost even more so, financially.
Almost everyone wants their divorce to be quick, easy and cheap. While it can be one or the other from time to time, it almost never is everything at once. More often than not, circumstances collude to make it more than you expect it to be.
Uncontested divorces often buck this trend though. Where many normal divorces are full of long drawn wrangling, uncontested divorces are often open and shut and can be done with in less than two months.
What is an uncontested divorce?
A divorce generally terminates an existing marriage, allowing the parties to remarry. It also determines the rights of the parties against each other following the marriage. However, this depends on the state in which the divorce was filed and the circumstances of the case.
An uncontested divorce is one where neither spouse has any contentions about the terms of the marriage dissolution. In many situations, the respondent spouse may not even file a response to the divorce petition.
Uncontested divorces proceed much faster and reach resolution much quicker than normal divorces. And since most of the cost associated with divorce proceedings is time-based, uncontested divorce proceedings also have a tendency to be much cheaper than normal divorce proceeding.
Commonly, parties to an uncontested divorce proceeding will have agreed to cooperate to make the proceedings swift. A written agreement is usually drawn up between them. This agreement will take care of and detail their plans for:
- Child support payments
- Child custody agreements
- Visitation rights
- Payment of shared debts
- Division of shared property
- Alimony payments
Although many lawyers use the term “uncontested divorce” differently, the main distinguishing factor of this proceeding is that the parties will have no contention about any of the matters to be dealt with in the divorce.
Anything other than this becomes a contested divorce. And that means the proceedings will get longer, harder to resolve and, of course, more expensive.
What determines the cost of a divorce?
Although, under the law, you’re perfectly capable of carrying out a pro se divorce. You have a constitutional right to represent yourself in any matter and you do not have to rely on the services of a lawyer.
However, there are several costs associated with filing and seeing through a divorce that are substantial in their own right and wholly independent from the costs usually attributable to legal representation.
These costs include the following:
- Filing fees: In all courts of the land, you will be required to pay filing fees once your business within the court involves submission of documents for the court’s inspection. These filing fees are often fixed and are payable upon production of the document. In Arkansas, you would generally have to pay filing fees of about $100.
- Spousal petition response: If your spouse does not agree to waive their rights to challenge the petition, they can file a formal response to the petition. Once this response is filed, additional filing fees will be required for the procedure and the cost of drafting the response will also have to be taken into account.
- Depositions: If the divorce becomes contentious, it may be necessary to take depositions of likely witnesses at the divorce hearing. The costs that must be borne here include the cost of the court reporter, the transcript of the deposition and usually a flat fee for the retainer of a lawyer that will perform or defend the deposition.
- Drafting processes and motions: This is the part that is often inescapable regardless of whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. Divorces usually involve a lot of official paperwork and it doesn’t come cheap. There’ll be a need to draft the following documents:
- Documents to file for the divorce
- Response to a divorce filed against you
- Waiver of service
- The divorce decree
- Response to a motion or its initial drafting
- Expert fees: It may become necessary to hire experts like psychologists and private investigators if the divorce turns messy. And these fees run high too, often way higher than it costs to simply get a good lawyer on the case.
- Lawyer costs: In the event that you decide you want a good lawyer to handle the divorce right from the start, you’ll also need to factor the lawyer’s retainer into your overall cost.
These individual costs often add a cascading effect onto the overall expense of divorce proceedings in Arkansas so that your cost here may be anything from $5,000 to any amount it takes to get your case done. But in a truly uncontested divorce, you could get off with far less expenses.
What would be your cost for an uncontested divorce?
In a truly uncontested divorce, you’re looking at fewer expenses overall and it can represent yourself all through the proceedings.
If there is absolutely no contention between you and your spouse, an uncontested divorce will cost you nothing more than $100 to $200. The expense will cover the process of filing a complaint with the appropriate family court in your district.
The parties must have set out all the terms of the impending divorce in an agreement though. The agreement must contain all the terms that will regulate the rights and responsibilities of the parties after the divorce.
If there is any conflict over the agreement or if one spouse cannot be located to sign, the costs of the uncontested divorce will begin to creep up. This means, first, that the parties may need to retain a mediator to help them smooth out the wrinkles in the agreement and, second, that there may be a need to pay sheriff fees so the other spouse can be properly served.
So, barring any unanticipated events and expenses, your Arkansas uncontested divorce should cost you no more than $200.
Retaining a lawyer may still be your best bet
The unhappy thing about agreements is: you can’t always tell how they will adapt to future changes in the circumstances of the parties. You can’t always tell how well they will work for the relationship in future.
So, while you have the right to represent yourself in your divorce proceedings and draw up your own agreement, it may be worth your while to seriously consider hiring a lawyer to advice you on the drafting of court documents and sundry matters.
This is because lawyers, in their profession, are trained to spot all issues that may likely arise in an agreement and to always keep an eye on how it will behave in future. Besides, you don’t want to make any fatal mistakes in your processes as that almost always means you’ll have to do it all over.
A divorce is nothing to rush into. So it’s best to take your time and consider all your options before taking the plunge. If you have any questions, we’d be delighted to help you however we can. All you have to do is get in touch.