An “uncontested divorce” occurs when divorcing spouses agree on the terms of their divorce on their own and without going to court. In many uncontested cases, the parties have already reached an agreement before any attorneys are hired. In such cases, an attorney can draft the necessary legal documents reflecting the agreement, and finalize the divorce.

But beware; many people believe that one attorney can represent both parties. This isn’t true. The rules of ethics governing attorney conduct prevent one attorney from representing both sides to a divorce. If your spouse hires an attorney to finalize your agreement, remember that your spouse’s attorney has no legal duty to protect your rights, and only represents the interests of your spouse. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your spouse’s attorney will lie to you or try to cheat you, but it’s always wise to have your own attorney review any paperwork the other attorney drafts before you sign it.

Unfortunately, I’ve had many people come to my office after it’s too late: they’re unhappy with the terms of their divorce, but they’d already signed an agreement drafted by their spouse’s attorney. Sometimes they signed even though they didn’t understand it, but often it’s because they relied on their spouse or their spouse’s attorney to explain the document and assure them it was okay to sign. In Texas, if a mentally competent adult signs an agreement or contract voluntarily, even without reading or understanding it first, it’s virtually impossible for them to get out of it later.

The good news is that an uncontested divorce is far less expensive than a contested case, and it can often be finalized in about 90 days. If it’s done right, time and money isn’t the only thing you’ll save; you’ll avoid the emotional strain and heartache that goes along with a protracted legal battle.