There are many reasons to file a divorce. Take Henry and Martha. After raising four children during their 31-year marriage, they decided to join the “gray divorce” crowd. Jake and Lucy, married four years ago, had one child together before Jake’s infidelity and substance abuse drove them apart. Both of these couples had some heavy decisions ahead. As their cases progressed, they had to decide whether settlement or litigation was best for their divorce.
The parties in most divorce cases are able to reach a divorce settlement agreement. The couple and their attorneys may negotiate privately or go to mediation. Though it is similar to a trial in that both parties present their side, mediations proceed very differently.
For one thing, agreements reached in a mediation are confidential. Court proceedings are not, although courts can restrict who can view divorce court records. In Jake and Lucy’s case, privacy was a big concern. Lucy did not want Jake’s infidelity and drug addiction publicly aired.
Unfortunately, trial became a necessity for Henry and Martha. A lifelong homemaker, Martha had never worked outside the home. She expected spousal support to continue for some time. Henry, however, felt she deserved nothing because he had been the family’s breadwinner for their entire marriage. Both stubbornly stuck to their positions and refused to compromise.
When Is Settlement Right?
Some couples are in a position to settle their differences quickly. For them, settlement through negotiations or mediation typically is faster than going through the court system. They don’t have to wait for space to clear on a court docket to schedule hearings.
Divorce strains family relationships. Mediation may be less destructive on those relationships because they are typically less combative than trials.
Couples going through a divorce may have financial problems. Mediations and settlement negotiations are usually less expensive than going to trial.
When a settlement agreement is presented to the court, the judge will make sure the document complies with California law. However, many of the agreements contained in the settlement agreement do not require a judge’s scrutiny. Couples may hammer out agreements that suit them, but that most judges would not arrive at.
If negotiations and mediation fail, divorce proceedings go to the next level.
When Is Litigation the Best Option?
Some parties may be unable to resolve their issues without court intervention. So, they settle in for the long haul. They may be expected to attend several hearings or even participate in a trial that lasts for days.
Going to trial sounds terrible! So why do some couples end up battling it out in a courtroom?
Divorces with more complex issues are more likely to go to trial. What makes a divorce more complex? Among other things, disputes over property division that can’t be overcome. Inability to agree on hot issues like child custody or spousal support could end up in a courtroom.
Trial may be necessary if domestic violence or child abuse is involved. A judge has the authority issue orders that protect the abused spouse or child, something neither an attorney nor a mediator can do.
Some spouses make unreasonable demands or have unreasonable expectations. In cases where this is an issue, unfortunately, a trial usually becomes necessary.