Your divorce questions answered: Should I settle or go to court?

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOTV) – In about 95% of divorces the couple are able to work out a reasonable settlement, but in some cases it doesn’t work out that way.  If you are married to a controlling, narcissistic spouse or have complex issues and properties it can be much more difficult.

Your attorneys may go through discovery and look at all of the assets and issues involved with your case.  They may even hire experts to appraise items to ensure that they have a fair idea of the value of all of your assets.  If you have children each attorney will talk to their clients and try to determine a balanced approach to child custody that is in the best interest of their client and the children.  Both attorneys will sit down and try to negotiate a settlement agreement that is agreeable to each of the parties involved.

When does a trial enter into the scenario and how do you know if you should proceed to trial rather then settle?  Usually there have been many rounds of negotiations and one or both parties are refusing to be reasonable and agree to any kind of compromise.  Frustration, by all involved, to be able to move things forward will make going to court and litigating the issues look like the best alternative.  If this is where you find yourself there are several points you want to consider before going forward with a trial.

What are you arguing about?  If your disagreement is over who gets the boat and everything else is agreeable there is a possibility of negotiating, but if you are arguing about whether or not there should be any visitation with sole custody of the children, if there is suspicion that your spouse is hiding assets or if he is unwilling to entertain the idea of spousal support and you feel you cannot survive without it you may want the court in intervene.  In other words, the big stuff.  Remember you won’t necessarily get justice in court because you will be relying on the predisposition of the Judge, the skill of both attorneys and their ability to get their client’s point of view across.

Going to trial is expensive so ask yourself if you can afford it and whether or not what you want to achieve is worth the price of the trial.  Trials can last a half day or several weeks – all at an hourly rate.  Ask your attorney to give you an estimate of the cost of a trial (add 25% to be sure) and compare it to the value of what you hope to achieve. You don’t want to agree to an unfair settlement, but you do have to be realistic about what you can afford, whether it is worth it.  You may come out of a trial with a decision that isn’t as good for you as what your spouse would have agreed to if you had continued to negotiate.  Sometimes, both parties exit the courtroom unhappy.

The monetary expense is one thing, but you also need to look at the emotional expense.  Are you ready to have all  of your marital failings brought out in court?  The stress of a trial can be hard to handle and how you present yourself can have an influence on the outcome so make sure you can handle it and are prepared. The Judge most likely does not know you.  He or she is going to make important decisions about your and your children’s lives based on what they hear, read and see in court.  Judge’s have biases too and tend to bring them to their decisions.  You may not get much sympathy from a hardworking female judge if you are asking for a large spousal support because you have been a stay at home mom and never worked.

There are definitely times when you should go to trial or you simply have no choice.  Unfortunately, some spouses are control freaks, abusive, delusional and simply unwilling to give in to the smallest compromise.  Narcissistic spouses often fight to the extreme and have figured out that if they do they usually win so going to trial becomes necessary.  Talk to your attorney and get their advise about the  realistic outcomes of a trial and whether or not it is worth it for you and then consider the points here to give you the best answer in your case.


Nothing herein institutes a legal opinion.


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