As an experienced divorce lawyer in New Jersey, I often hear from potential clients in long term marriages or relationships that come in for a divorce or family law case that it does not seem fair that his or her spouse wants x or that he or she is entitled to x in their divorce agreement.
Some individuals come in convinced that they will go to trial no matter what. That is a terrible way to think. With emotions so high, I understand that reaction but it is not a good one. Trials or plenary hearings should be done when the parties are so far apart and both parties have legal arguments to back their positions.
Most people do not. And when you don’t, you may be subject to paying your spouse’s legal fees. Don’t believe me? It happens every day in every family court in New Jersey – and in many other states as well.
Why reaching a divorce agreement is better than going to trial.
Litigants in long term marriages that are coming to an end face significant challenges when they want a divorce. In long term marriages, parties acquire substantial assets, debts, personal property, and more. Aside from assets, long term partners usually have children. This is a whole different major issue. Child custody is one of the most fought over issues in family court in New Jersey and throughout America.
When it comes to child custody, men now have the same chance as women to obtain residential custody. Shared custody is becoming more common in certain situations. Fighting for custody becomes a very expensive endeavor that can be avoided if you work hard with your attorney and the other parent to come to an agreement. This allows each party to be involved in the child’s life so that he or she can enjoy his or her time with mom and dad.
If you go to trial because you believe something is unfair, a Judge may not agree with you. Going to trial can be very risky. I’ve had clients that have been so mad at the idea that they must pay alimony or give up/divide an asset, that they decide to go to trial and risk everything. I highly advise against this. At trial, you can do better, worse or about the same as creating a divorce agreement. One thing for certain about going to trial is that you will have less input.
Trial Judges are busy with so many cases that it is very hard for the Judge to pay attention to what you think is important. Judges deal with case after case. One thing you may think is important, the Judge may not. A trial can go on for months depending on the Judge you have. In short, try to avoid divorce court if you can. In some situations, though, a trial is a must.
When Is a Trial a Must?
A trial is a must if, for example, your spouse is not letting you see your child or talk to your child and is using the child as a pawn.
Another situation could be where the parties own a home and one party does not want to give the other party their equitable share. The list goes on as to why you should go to trial, but there are more reasons why you shouldn’t go to trial.
What Can I Do to Help My Case Settle?
Write a list of what your ideal situation is. Go over this list with your attorney. Your attorney will go over the list and tell you what steps need to be taken to achieve certain case goals. It is part of an attorney’s job to give his or her client realistic expectations.
Aside from a list, you need to try your very best to be civil with your spouse. Anger and rage will lead to bad decisions which you will regret.
- Be realistic in what you want.
- Know what your budget is.
- Find out what kind of timeline you are dealing with concerning what you want.
- Listen to your attorney.
- Be respectful in court.
- Tell your attorney your concerns.
- Think positive.
While this article is brief, I hope it helps an individual going through the divorce process. In the end, stay positive and try your best to look to the future.