When most people hear the word "divorce," they often envision a scene of the process – that is, people screaming at each other in a courtroom. While such scenes are exaggerated and do not resemble the majority of cases, the fact is that divorce litigation isn’t for the faint of heart. Litigation simply means taking your case to court to be decided by a judge, which is what most people expect to do when considering separating from their spouse.
Here are four reasons why litigation might not be the best approach for you, however.
1. Litigation can intensify the animosity of a divorce.
Litigation is inherently adversarial. You and your lawyer may go into court and present evidence as to why you deserve primary custody, or cannot support your ex financially and need to keep a certain portion of your shared assets while passing most of the family debt onto your much wealthier ex. Your ex and their attorney may make similar arguments. Then the judge decides which side has the stronger argument.
This process naturally creates an “us vs. them” mentality. Such an atmosphere only exacerbates underlying negative feelings likely already present in the case. It can provoke people into making hurtful accusations, exaggerating small details, communicating very poorly or otherwise bullying the other side to get a "win," even if it is only an emotional one.
2. Litigation can give you a false sense of hope.
Because of this aforementioned "us vs. them" mentality, going through litigation can give you false hope. You hope the court will rule in your favor. When it doesn't, or when the judge comes up with a compromise that satisfies the law, it can feel unfair.
Remember that the judge cannot rule based on the emotions involved in the case. So even if your spouse cheated on you, they have a duty to act impartially based on the law and the facts of the case. And that likely means neither side gets what it hoped for.
3. Litigation takes time, sometimes years.
Getting divorced is not a fast process. In divorce litigation, you must work on the court’s time table, and judges’ dockets fill up quickly. It could take months to settle every detail. And this assumes that spouses are honest about their finances and don’t fight about custody, support or property division. Highly contested cases can take a year or more to finish.
Even if you can’t agree on everything, alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation or Collaborative Law take away this constraint. Both of these processes are designed to help you productively work through the road blocks. Best of all, you set the schedule, so you could settle your differences in a matter of weeks, not years.
4. Litigation can make you feel stuck.
Because litigation can drag on, it can feel like you're not really getting anywhere. Every call from your attorney or bill for services is just one more reminder of this fact. You may get frustrated and upset by the lack of action.
Remember that even if you already started the litigation process, you can always attempt to settle out of court. You don’t have to wait to go into a courtroom to resolve your issues. Sometimes it requires swallowing a bit of pride or making a few concessions, but it can be done, and you may even be more satisfied with the result. We are always ready and willing to help clients explore more amicable ways of resolving their family law issues, including the more formal processes of mediation or Collaborative divorce.