Two paths can be taken when resolving a divorce: litigation and settlement. Litigation involves presenting arguments in court and having a judge decide the outcome. In contrast, settlement consists of reaching mutual agreements with your spouse outside the courtroom. Each approach has its pros and cons. Understanding both can help you make informed decisions about the course your case takes.
What Does It Mean to Settle Your Divorce?
When you settle your divorce, you and your spouse essentially agree to the divorce terms outside of court. This includes issues like child custody, child support, and property division. Settling your divorce can be a good option if you and your spouse can communicate and work together.
A few different avenues are available to settle your divorce. You and your spouse can negotiate directly with each other without involving third parties. You can also use alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or a collaborative divorce. Each approach consists of having an outside individual, such as a mediator or your family law attorneys, facilitate talks and guide negotiations.
No matter how you decide to resolve your divorce, ensuring that the terms of the settlement are fair is essential.
What Are the Benefits of Reaching a Settlement Out of Court?
When most people think of a legal dispute, they might imagine going to court and having a judge determine the outcome. However, many benefits exist to settling out of court, such as saving time and money, reducing stress, and giving you more control over how your case resolves.
Below is a more detailed discussion of some of the advantages:
- Save time: Court cases can take months or even years to resolve, as they must be put on the court’s calendar and arguments must be presented before a judge. Settlements, on the other hand, can be reached in a matter of weeks.
- Save money: Trials can be expensive because parties must pay court costs, expenses for expert witnesses, and more for attorney’s fees. Generally, the costs for a settlement are lower because some of these expenses can be decreased or avoided.
- Reduce stress: Trials can be stressful, especially if they drag on for months or years. Settlements can sometimes be less taxing because they allow the couple to avoid the uncertainty of trial and having a judge decide the case.
- More control: When a divorce goes to trial, a judge will determine how to resolve issues, taking agency from the couple. With a settlement, the couple comes to mutual agreements about certain matters.
Many situations exist in which a divorce settlement may not be possible.
Some of the reasons include, but are not limited to, the following:
- One or both spouses are unwilling to compromise
- One or both spouses are inadequately prepared for the divorce
- One or both spouses have unrealistic expectations
- The divorce is contentious and emotional
- The couple has significant assets or debts that must be divided
If a settlement is not possible, the couple must go to court to have a judge make decisions.
What Does It Mean to Litigate Your Divorce?
Divorce litigation is a legal process for cases where issues remain unresolved. You would submit your paperwork to a family court, and a judge would determine solutions as necessary. Your case may go to trial, where you present your arguments before the judge.
Litigation is often pursued when spouses cannot agree on how to settle divorce-related matters. The result is an official judgment from the court that both parties must abide by.
What are the Advantages of Going to Trial?
Although going to trial may take longer and be more expensive than settling, it can be advantageous in certain situations.
For example, couples may benefit from a trial if:
- One spouse is being unreasonable or uncooperative
- The divorce issues are complex
- The couple can’t reach agreements through negotiation
- A history of domestic violence exists
At trial, each spouse can present evidence and testimony to support their arguments for specific arrangements. The judge will then decide on any outstanding issues, including property division, child custody, and spousal support.
Going to trial also allows each spouse to tell their story and have their voice heard. This can be vital for spouses who feel like they have been wronged or unfairly treated at any point during the divorce.
Of course, litigating a divorce also has its drawbacks. Usually, it is more expensive than coming to a settlement. Also, the judge will decide the case based on the law and their discretion. This means that the couple’s unique circumstances are unlikely to receive the consideration they deserve. Still, for couples who can’t come to an agreement through negotiation, going to trial may be the best option.
How to Decide Whether Litigation or Settlement Is the Path for Your Case
You must consider several factors when deciding whether to pursue divorce litigation or settlement. One of these is the nature of your relationship with your spouse. If you have a good relationship and can communicate effectively, settlement might be an effective path forward. However, if your relationship is fraught with conflict or you feel that you and your spouse won’t be able to reach agreements on your own, litigation may be the better choice.
Another factor to consider is the amount of money and property you and your spouse have. Negotiations might be successful if you have smaller assets and debts. But you might think about going to court if you have a larger estate.
Finally, if you have a child or children, protecting their best interests is essential. You and your spouse know the dynamics of your family, so you might think about working together to develop custody and visitation arrangements that work for you. Still, matters involving children can be highly combative and emotional, and reaching agreements with your spouse can be difficult. In that case, you would need a judge to decide.
Discuss Your Case with an Attorney
Making informed decisions about how your divorce proceeds is important. The outcome affects your family and future, and it must be fair. Although we cover quite a bit of information in this blog, we can’t discuss everything. Thus, we invite you to speak with one of our Los Angeles lawyers to learn more about your options.
Schedule a consultation with Claery & Hammond, LLP by contacting us at (310) 817-6904 today.