Do You Have to Go to Trial for a Divorce?

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Divorce Law
This article was reviewed and approved for publication by Attorney Charlotte Christian.
Do You Have to Go to Trial for a Divorce?

You have to go to trial for a divorce only if you still have contested issues in your dissolution of marriage case. If you and your soon-to-be former spouse settle all of the details, like physical and legal custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, and distribution of assets and debts, there is no need for a trial.

An Overview of Uncontested Divorce

Most divorces in America today are uncontested. Even if they start out with some issues in dispute, most divorcing couples find a way to resolve their differences so they can part ways without having the expense and stress of a full trial.

Settling the contested issues means that you do not have to go to trial, but the settlement also provides the following additional benefits:

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Avoiding a Trial for a Divorce Can Save Money

Trials generally are expensive. In a divorce trial, lawyers must prepare dozens or sometimes hundreds of exhibits to introduce into evidence during the trial. Collecting all that evidence in an admissible form, preparing it for court, making the required copies, and planning each step of the trial and when each piece of evidence gets introduced takes many hours.

A general rule is that for every hour of court time, there are at least 10 hours of preparation time for the lawyer. If you only have a short, one-day trial, that is eight hours at court and at least 80 hours of preparation for trial.

Also, your attorney will have to prepare for, attend, and participate in pretrial conferences and motion hearings. Resolving all your disputes so that you have an uncontested divorce saves you a ton of money that you can then use to help pay your bills in your new life.

You Get to Start Your New Life Sooner if You Settle Your Divorce

You cannot simply walk over to the courthouse and demand a trial immediately. When the judge is satisfied that the case is ready for trial, your attorney will have to meet with the judge and the other lawyer to schedule the trial dates. It could be months before there is an opening on the judge’s trial calendar that does not have a conflict with either of the lawyers.

Do not be surprised if your trial gets continued, also called rescheduled, one or more times. Litigation is highly unpredictable. Each time your case is continued, it could be another three to six months or longer for a new date.

When your divorce trial finally finished, do not expect to walk out of the courtroom with your divorce decree in hand. Judges usually do not rule from the bench in divorce trials. Judges usually take the case under advisement, meaning that, when they get the time, they will review your court file and all the evidence again and make a decision as to the contested terms. People often wait weeks or months for the judge’s ruling.

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You Can End the Uncertainty for You and the Children

As with many things in life, not knowing what is going to happen is often more stressful than what actually ends up happening. Your children have no control over the situation, so they likely feel even more anxiety than you do, as the American Bar Association explains. When a divorce drags on for a long time, it is hard on the parents and the children.

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Preserves the Co-Parenting Relationship

A bitter court battle can destroy what little relationship you still have with your spouse. If you do not have children together and do not have to interact with each other ever again, you might not mind that consequence. On the other hand, ugly courtroom drama can make co-parenting even more challenging than it already is.

You Can Have More Control Over Your Future

When you go to trial, the judge, who is likely a total stranger to you, decides your fate and that of your family. The only way for you to create your own future is to work out a fair settlement with your spouse. When you reach an agreement on the terms of your divorce, you and your spouse have control, not a stranger.

An Uncontested Divorce Can Protect Your Privacy

Divorce trials involve highly personal topics, like personal finances, medical issues, adultery, and sexual activity. Most people would rather not have to testify about these topics in front of other people in an open courtroom. If you settle your case, you will have much greater privacy.

Ways to Settle the Issues Remaining in Your Divorce

Divorce settlements aren’t always as challenging as people think. Often, both spouses are ready to move on, so they are able to think rationally, control their emotions, and be reasonably fair. Here are a few suggestions on ways that you and your soon-to-be former spouse might try to resolve the disputed issues in your divorce:

  • Talk to each other
  • Ask your lawyer to negotiate with the other side
  • See if the attorneys can get guidance from the judge
  • Use a mediator

The attorneys at Charlotte Christian Law will be with you every step of the divorce process. You can call us today to find out how we can help you.

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