It’s In Your Court: Ten Good Reasons to Settle Your Divorce
American readers love lists, so many books and magazines have lists of the top 10, or top 100, best ways to fame and fortune, lose weight, find your soul mate, etc. Check out the covers of magazines and you will see “Top 10 Ways to Fantastic Abs” or “Hundred Places to Visit Before You Die.”
Like death and taxes, divorce is a fact of modern life. There are many good reasons to settle one’s divorce without a trial; here is my “Top Ten List”:
- Divorce does not eliminate joint debts. Some people apparently think filing for divorce will stop home mortgage foreclosure or creditor harassment. The mortgage company (or credit card company) is not a party to your divorce. Regardless of how the judge divides debt in the divorce decree, that decision is not binding on your creditors. Consult a lawyer if you have questions about this issue or anything in this article.
- There is no such thing as a free lunch, meaning, a trial costs you time, money, uncertainty, and emotional capital.
- You can’t rewrite history. The workaholic parent that never went to parent-teacher conferences, or spent most weekends away from the family, generally isn’t awarded physical custody of the children. The court will not disregard a history of drug or alcohol abuse, or physical violence.
- You can either pay for your own kids to go to college or for your lawyer’s kids to go to college, not both.
- Do not leave the decision-making about your family up to a stranger. No matter how long the trial or how skilled the lawyer, the parents will always know more about your family than the judge.
- If you think trials are expensive and time-consuming, appeals are more so. Attorneys’ fees, filing fee of $500, transcript costs maybe in the thousands of dollars and maybe a year delay. There is no guarantee that your spouse will be ordered to pay your attorney’s fees.
- Much of what is important to you in getting divorced is probably inadmissible evidence for trial and DOES NOT and CANNOT be considered by the judge…extramarital affairs…conduct not affecting the parent-child relationship…which set of in-laws gave the two of you the wedding gifts ten or twenty years ago.
- Tomorrow’s another day. Look to the future, not the past. Kids become adults. Ask yourself: Do I want to be the parent that is not invited to the child’s college graduation, or wedding or the grandchild’s first birthday party? Children have long memories. If you make their childhood miserable, perhaps they will not want you seeing their children.
- King Solomon had it right. So did the mother in the story that chose to giv e up her child rather than have him destroyed (cut in half by a sword) in the dispute.
- It is usually cheaper to buy a new toaster (or snowmobile or bass boat), than to pay your lawyer to fight for it.
Some folks seem unconcerned about the cost of their divorce because their parent or grandparent is paying the lawyer. If that is the case with you, please consider that you are using up the possibly fixed income or assets of an elderly parent or grandparent who will not have 10-30 years to recoup this money in working wages. We have lawyers filing hundreds of pages of affidavits or trail exhibits for contested divorces. All those pages cost money to prepare and file, and for the opposing party to respond to. I don’t think I’m exaggerating the cost if I say you can assume it’s about $100 in attorney fees for each page of pater your lawyer files with the Court.
How you can settle: hire a mediator, use your lawyer’s skills to settle instead of litigate, and most importantly, do not lose focus on what is most important if you have children.
In summary, take control of your side of the divorce, make a good faith effort to settle all issues or as many as reasonably possible, and thereby preserve your assets for your children and yourself. In the long run, you will be more satisfied with the outcome.