The final stage of an uncontested divorce is the final hearing. Because you and your spouse reached agreement on divorce-related issues, no need for a trial exists in your case. A final hearing on an unscheduled divorce typically is scheduled by making arrangements with the administrative assistant to the judge assigned you divorce case.
A key element of preparing for your uncontested divorce hearing is ensuring that your settlement agreement is in order, according to "The Complete Divorce Handbook: A Practical Guide" by Brette McWhorter Sember. By scheduling a final hearing in an uncontested divorce, you necessarily advise the court that you resolved all issues with your spouse. The court clerk maintains a standard form settlement agreement for a couple able to resolve matters. Complete the settlement agreement form, a fairly self explanatory document that itemizes the resolved issues in your case. You and your spouse must sign the settlement agreement in front of a notary public. The original of the agreement is brought to the final hearing on your uncontested divorce.
Provided a settlement agreement is signed, only you or your spouse need attend the proceedings, according to "Nolo's Essential Guide to Divorce" by Emily Doskow. The presence of both of you is not mandatory, although certainly permissible. The attendance of both spouses is preferable in the event that the judge raises a question of concern during the hearing that can be resolved by the presence of both parties to the case.
You are called upon to respond to a basic set of questions, posed by the judge, at the final hearing of an uncontested divorce. These queries by the court typically are called "jurisdictional questions." The court asks you specific questions to ensure that the basic requirements of divorce law are satisfied so that a divorce legally can be granted by the court, according to "The Complete Divorce Handbook: A Practical Guide." Questions to expect include those associated with how long you were married, where you and your spouse reside, how long you and your spouse have resided at your current addresses, and basic questions about your children. The actual length of a final hearing in an uncontested divorce varies. However, in most cases, such a session lasts 15 minutes or even less.
Many people dread the prospect of attending a final hearing in an uncontested divorce. These individuals harbor a number of misconceptions about the process. Although the manner in which a final hearing is conducted varies from each judge, overall they are more informal processes. Depending on the judge, the final hearing may be held in her conference room rather than in open court. Some judges schedule a number of uncontested divorce final hearings at about the same time, because these proceedings do not take long. You may find yourself waiting your turn with a number of other people going through the same process.
The judge signs a divorce decree at the time of the hearing. Understand that your divorce technically is not finalized until the signed decree is filed with the clerk of the court. If you are represented by an attorney, the judge likely will have your counsel file the document. If you are unrepresented, the judge may have his staff undertake this task. In either situation, once filed you need to obtain what is known as a certified copy of the divorce decree. In fact, you may want to obtain several certified copies. A certified copy is a duplicate of the original divorce decree, stamped and signed by a member of the court clerk's staff as a true and correct copy. You may require a certified copy of the decree for a variety of reasons, including making changes on a financial account.
- "The Complete Divorce Handbook: A Practical Guide"; Brette McWhorter Sember; 2009
- "Nolo's Essential Guide to Divorce"; Emily Doskow; 2008
- American Bar Association: Section of Family Law