“I want to litigate my divorce to get sole custody and my fair share of the property. My lawyer insists it would be better to negotiate outside of court. I strongly disagree. What should I do?”
It is not uncommon for clients to want to litigate and have their day in court. For many, this is their chance to express their frustration and anger with their spouse and to have someone listen to what they perceive to be the truth in the matter. Unfortunately, what they are also doing is airing their dirty laundry in a public forum. In my experience, most clients believe the court will, of course, side completely with them. That is not typically the case, and clients are often surprised and disappointed when the court does not do what they expect.
So while I understand your desire to litigate, it is my experience that you will be happier with the result if you are involved in reaching it. Remember, if you litigate, you are turning over the future of your children and the division of your property to someone who does not know you at all or have any personal interest in the outcome of a matter which is extremely important to you. You, your spouse, and any other relevant witnesses will provide information to the court. However, the court is not likely to understand or even know all of the finer points of your family and financial situation. In the process of negotiation, you will able to make the decisions on when you are willing to compromise and what you consider to be non-negotiable. You have a greater chance of accomplishing those goals which are most important to you. When you are dealing with your children’s future and your financial future and survival, this is very important. Furthermore, in my opinion, there are less likely to be issues that arise post-judgment when the agreement has been negotiated, rather than tried by the court. People just tend to be happier with an agreement that they participated in reaching and are more likely to abide by such an agreement.
Ronald M. Bookholder is a family law attorney in Troy, Michigan.