Why Settle on the Courthouse Steps?

I am often asked “if 95% of divorce cases are resolved with a settlement, why does it take so long to get there?”

There are many good reasons that delay the process: the need to obtain financial information; custody issues; and obtaining appraisals and reports. All of these items may be necessary in order to have a full understanding of the family’s finances, or that there is enough information to discern what is in the best interests of the children.

Unfortunately, there are more bad reasons than good for the process to take so long. If you try to avoid these, you will probably end up with a quicker resolution and save yourself legal fees.

  • The status quo is better than the ultimate outcome – While this may be true, it is often a matter of “you can run but you can’t hide.” How much better off are you by putting off the inevitable?
  • Using litigation as a weapon – There are people who feel that the time, energy, and intrusion into the other person’s life is worth the wait. Keep in mind, this is a very short period of time and then all of the lawyers, judges, and others involved in your case will move on.
  • You or your spouse are making unreasonable demands or have unreasonable expectations – If your family owns 100 widgets and you want 99 of them, then certainly your spouse may not be in any hurry to settle.
  • There are easy ways to expedite the process:
  • Listen to your lawyer – Are you hiring this person to provide you advice and counsel or simply to be your mouthpiece? If you only want somebody to say what you want that may not have any basis in fact or law, you are not using your attorney in the best way possible, and are probably wasting time and money.
  • Ask your lawyer what percent of her cases she tries – While you want an experienced trial lawyer, if 5% of all cases are tried and yet your lawyer tries 95% of hers, is she unlucky, or does she not want to put in the hard work involved in working out a settlement?
  • Temper your expectations – If you are only hearing the “best case” scenario, then you are not taking into account the risks involved in litigation.
  • Don’t lose the forest for the trees – While there are certain items that have sentimental value and cannot be duplicated, that is most likely the minority of what you own. Don’t spend $500 fighting over the toaster and coffee maker. Flip a coin!
  • Don’t fall in love with litigation – While our television screens are full of exciting moments in court with beautiful lawyers and judges, real life it is not that glamorous. There are rarely the “ah ha” moments that you see on TV.

The best way to know what your reasonable options are in a divorce is to speak to an experienced matrimonial practitioner who can help guide you to the best outcome.

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