Divorce Court or Settle? What Works For You? (Part 1)

Judges gavel and scales of justice

Should you head for divorce court? Or try to settle out of court?

For the most part, the only settlements that people hear about are those that take place between celebrities. Usually, this is because the amounts of money are so astronomical that most of us couldn’t earn them in three life times. For this reason, divorce court gets more press than out-of-court settlements. In addition, they tend to be tied to a greater deal of drama and controversy, which always attracts attention.

The truth is, however, that more people settle out of court than those who take their divorces to a judge. In Michigan, more than 95% of divorce cases are settled without a trial. But is this because going to court costs more? Or are you likely to get more fair deal if you settle? Perhaps not…? This can be confusing for people. Which is better, they wonder, and which one will ensure that my kids and myself are taken care of for the future? Well, the truth is that depends on you. So here are a few things to consider before you make the choice.

  • Settle vs. Divorce Court?

First and foremost, you need to remember that most people who end up in divorce court are there because they couldn’t agree on the terms of a settlement. If you and your spouse are getting divorced, and you have reached that point where you can’t have a single discussion without fighting, there is a good chance you are you’re going to end up in court for at least a part of your case, whether you like it or not.

  • Attorneys speak for you

For some couples, their attorneys do the talking on their behalf, which saves them the trouble of having to deal with each other. When your attorney and your spouse’s attorney are able to come up with an arrangement that you can both accept, you will be able to avoid a divorce court trial. For those who want to avoid court but can’t exchange two civil words with their spouse, a settlement is still an option. Experienced attorneys are skilled at negotiating settlements in divorce cases just like yours. The best attorneys have handled hundreds or even thousands of divorce cases of all sorts.

  • Communication plays a role

However, if you’re able to talk to your soon-to-be ex about how to divide your stuff, or what you think is best for your children, then there is a good chance that you could choose to settle out of court. Most people, attorneys and judges prefer this option, as it allows them to make more choices, and who could blame them? After all, being forced into a decision is so very stressful. So if you are trying to determine if a settlement would work for your divorce, we recommend that you assess your ability to communicate with your spouse. If you can talk without fighting, go ahead and discuss what they want with regards to court versus settlement. However, never, never, never reach a final agreement without conferring with your attorney.

  • Judges don’t have the full picture

When deciding if divorce court is right for you, you will need to remember that judges, for all of their experience and wisdom, do not know your family. They are not familiar with your kid’s routine and preference, so they won’t know what works best for your child. They also have no concept of how quickly, or how slowly, your children adapt to change, or how well they settle into new environments. And how could they? They are complete strangers. So leaving custody decisions to a judge might mean a ‘fair’ decision in the eyes of the law, but will it be the right one for your children? This brings us back to often recommending that parents reach decisions on their own rather than turning the decisions over to a stranger in a black robe.

Join us next time, when we will continue this discussion about what you need to consider when choosing the correct forum and the right attorney for your divorce. Until then, if you need any help making decisions about your divorce, or any other family law related issue, please contact us at our Farmington Hills office at (248) 479-6200. An attorney is standing by to take your call. If this feels like a crisis, please remember that we have attorneys available 24/7 for emergencies.


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