In thirty-five years of practicing family law, no one has ever walked through my door and asked, “when do we get to go to court?” Instead, the common concerned question is this: “do we have to go to court?”
Here’s the truth: if you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse can reach agreements about how to allocate assets, share time with children, and divide your income, then you (instead of a judge) are the best decision makers for your situation.
Why? Because resolutions fashioned by the people who know themselves and their family tend to be more durable, more nuanced, and a better fit for the family. You and your spouse are more familiar with your lifestyles and preferences than anyone else.
Further, a solution crafted by the divorcing couple tends to support healthy children, because they see their parents getting along and making decisions that prioritize a peaceful family life.
When You Need to Go to Court
If you are unable to reach a resolution with your spouse, then you can have a judge to make a final decision. This can be a good thing, as you want the process to move forward and you don’t want to be stuck arguing for years and years.
Even if the judge makes orders that are not what you hoped for, it can still give you relief because the divorce is now done and you can move on. You will at least know what assets and debts are yours and when you’ll spend time with your kids through the custody and timeshare plan.
Going to court should generally be a last resort, but there are cases where it is the right decision. There are cases where a consensual dispute resolution process may be a waste of a couple’s time and money, because personalities and other factors will require a judge’s ruling at the end of day.
Further, for situations where there is intimate partner violence or issues of dependency, reaching your own resolution may not be possible. If restraining orders or immediate support order agreements are needed, then you’ll want a judge to be involved quickly. If a spouse is worried that the bank accounts will be emptied, or that the credit cards will be canceled and that they’ll have no access to financial resources, then litigation may be a better option.
Why You Should Try to Avoid Court
If you can reach your own resolution, your agreement will be better tailored to your own lives. It will also mean that there are fewer hard feelings between you and your spouse, because making decisions together means that no one has to feel like they’ve “lost” the court case. Sure, spouses may not feel like they’ve gotten everything they wanted, but it’s often better to have compromised and be on good terms, both for their children and themselves, and to have moved forward with life more swiftly.
It is important to remember that in a family law case, there are finite resources to be divided and two people in the middle of conflict. Not everything will go smoothly or easily, but the more that can be agreed upon between the couple, the better the solution for everyone.
For assistance with any aspect of divorce, marital agreements, or settlements, contact us at Chase, Berenstein and Murray, Counselors at Law.