How do you approach the divorce process when the divorce is contested? Learn more in this guide to strategies to use in a contested divorce.
Divorce is a difficult time under the best of circumstances. It becomes even more difficult when it is contested.
A contested divorce is where the parties cannot come to an agreement on the basic terms of child custody, ongoing support, and division of assets. It can drag on for a lengthy period of time and involve painful public court proceedings.
If you are involved in a divorce and it looks like your former spouse will be contesting the terms you are demanding, here are six things you should know.
1. A Judge Will Usually Urge You to Settle
An estimated 95% of divorce proceedings end in a settlement instead of going to trial. Often the judge in question will encourage the parties to reach an agreement outside of the walls of the family courthouse.
You may wonder, “Why can’t I go and have my day in court?” Frankly, because local courts are understaffed and often way behind on their calendars. It can take months or even years to get a court date, and even that may be delayed.
Often a couple with good lawyers can hammer out an agreement in less time than it would take to go through the process of a trial. A judge may give a final review but usually, the most equitable terms are arrived at by the two parties through negotiation, not adversarial proceedings.
2. Going to Trial is Always More Expensive
Not only is going to trial extremely time-consuming, but it will also cost both of you much more money. The time it will take your lawyer to prepare for trial and be in the courtroom for hours, even days at a time, may significantly raise their final bill.
If you two are fighting over money, you must ask yourselves whether you really want the money and assets in question to go to the lawyers instead of you and your kids.
It’s not only attorney fees that escalate when you are involved in litigation. You may have to miss work, get babysitters, and incur other expenses. You may have to pay for experts, forensic accounting, and other litigation expenses.
3. A Trial is Hard for Everyone Involved
A trial can be emotionally trying for all parties. Giving testimony in open court is scary. Being questioned under oath, especially by a hostile opposing attorney, can be upsetting as well.
If the subject of your contest is child custody, that can make going to trial even more of an upheaval. Depending on the circumstances including their age, a child may be asked questions by the judge. Putting a child between two fighting parents can inflict great emotional pain on them.
Going to trial almost always increases the antagonism between two divorcing spouses. If there are children involved or even an agreement for ongoing payments of alimony or child support, you will still have to deal with this person in the future.
Of course, if negotiations have reached a standstill, the court may be your only option. If you feel unsafe or under-protected in negotiations, the court is there as a last resort.
4. Contested Can Change to Uncontested if You Negotiate in Good Faith
Just because you start off your divorce negotiations on opposite ends of the spectrum, does not mean you must proceed directly to the courtroom. Often a roadblock can be circumvented or a hurdle overcome through patient and sensitive conversation.
A good divorce lawyer is trained to bargain with the other side in order to get what his or her client wants and needs. They can use all manner of techniques to convince their opponent to come closer to their position.
It is a rare couple that can conduct this kind of conversation while they are in the midst of a divorce. That is why people hire lawyers: to convince their adversaries to find a meeting point.
Eventually, many couples do reach a point of agreement and are able to move on with the divorce and their lives.
5. Let Your Lawyers Do the Talking
As stated above, lawyers are trained to argue, negotiate and brainstorm ways to reach a compromise. If you are in the room with your lawyer and your spouse and her lawyer, let your lawyer speak for you.
Besides the years of law school and experience, your lawyer also has the advantage of being detached. They may care for you but they are not emotionally invested in the outcome like you are. On the other hand, if you and your ex were to try to hammer out these details, you are more likely to explode, or cry, or make matters worse.
Your lawyer may have a wide variety of techniques designed to gain an advantage over his opponent. She may even enumerate worst-case scenarios for your ex which strike fear in your heart. Do not interrupt or contradict her while she is negotiating; just let her do what you are paying her for.
It is intended to get you the best result possible.
6. Winning Does Not Always End the Troubles
Whether you win in court or reach a satisfactory agreement before trial, achieving a divorce rarely means you are forever free of your ex and the past. Divorce is a long road with legal, financial and emotional challenges.
If you share custody you will have to see your ex often. You may have to attend school and family events together. You may have further financial discussions over extracurricular expenses, the house, moving, and college.
If you “win” in a contested divorce, you may be elated. You may have attained everything you wanted in terms of money, child arrangements, and housing. However, you may still need to deal with your former partner in the coming years, no matter who “won” and who “lost.”
Contested Divorce: Win. Lose, or Something in Between
If you are involved in a contested divorce, you may want to win at all costs. However, you should balance your emotional desires with the financial and logistical realities of your situation. Sometimes it is better to get most of what you want rather than everything you want at a great emotional cost.
Talk to an experienced divorce attorney about the specifics of your case and what would be best for you and your family.
Call (402) 415-2525 for more information on divorce and other family law matters.