This episode of the Divorce and Your Money show is about divorce court, also called family law court. It is important to understand what to expect if you end up going to court, so you can decide if you want to go that route.
Often, you can avoid litigation altogether. There will be a court date, but all the issues will have been decided by then. Therefore, you can skip the court process. In some cases, court is unavoidable. It may be necessary to go to court to resolve an issue (or in some cases, several issues).
There are three reasons why going to court may not be a good idea:
1) Court is unpredictable.
When you go to court, the final decision rests with a judge. Courts everywhere are understaffed, so the judge will not be able to analyze all the details of your case. The law leaves many issues open to the judge’s interpretation. Those interpretations may be in the hands of a judge who is inexperienced or is simply not a very good judge.
Your attorney is another variable that makes court unpredictable. What if they are not prepared for your case that day? What if they do not advocate for you in the way that you want them to? If you go to court, you may not get the outcome you expect.
2) Court takes a long time.
If you are relying on a court, the divorce process can take an excessive amount of time. Even if you are going to court for a small issue, it may take a month or two before you can appear before a judge. Sometimes a decision is not rendered at the hearing, and you may have to wait a week or two to get the judge’s decision. In the meantime, you are in limbo. Often, these issues could be sorted out much quicker through negotiations with a mediator or attorney.
3) Court is expensive.
Almost all attorneys charge by the hour. You will be charged for the time it takes to prepare for court, any work done by a paralegal, and the hours spent in court. You will even pay for the time it takes for your attorney to travel to court. If you have experts testifying, that adds to the cost.
In some cases, you will pay just to have an expert on-call for a court date, even if you do not use them that day. Your lawyers and other team members are the ones who benefit from lengthy court battles. The more you spend on your divorce, the less you will have for your future (and your children’s future).
Court is necessary in some situations. It is important for you to get what you deserve. However, in many cases, the two parties may have arrived at an agreement by talking through the issues with a neutral party or their attorneys. Remember to keep the big picture in mind.
If you do have to go to court, now you know what to expect. A judge must make a quick decision with the facts they have in front of them. They are understaffed and overworked, and it often ends up hurting you, your ex-spouse, and your children.