In or Out of Court: One of the Gut-Wrenching Choices of the Divorce Dilemma
You want to fight as little as possible. There’s been enough fighting already.
You’re concerned about getting what is fair and understanding your rights.
You want your story told. You finally want to be heard.
You want everyone to know only some of your business. You can’t imagine seeing all the mistakes you and your spouse made in the marriage for everyone to witness.
Hey there. Today, we’re diving headfirst into a topic not for the faint of heart: going through a divorce in court or keeping it out of those hallowed (or not-so-hallowed) legal chambers.
Listen up because I will give it straight from the heart—no sugarcoating. When faced with the heart-wrenching decision of how to divorce, it’s a pivotal moment that can shape your future. So, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of both options: the pros and cons and how you can make that all-important choice.
The Courtroom Battle: Pros and Cons
- Binding Decisions: When a judge makes a ruling, it’s final. There is no room for dispute (well, mostly). Court rulings can bring closure and certainty.
- Enforceability: Court orders are legally binding, and if your ex decides to play fast and loose, you’ve got the law on your side.
- High Costs: Let’s face it; legal battles don’t come cheap. Court fees, attorney bills, and potential expert witnesses can drain your wallet faster than you can say “alimony.”
- Lack of Control: Once in court, it’s like stepping onto a runaway train. You can’t get off. The judge calls the shots, and you might only like that if they hear or agree with your point of view.
- Time-Consuming: Court proceedings can drag on for months or even years. Think about the stress and emotional toll that can take.
The Costly Courtroom Marathon
Meet Cheri and Ralph, who decided to go the courtroom route for their divorce. They each wanted to be heard but didn’t want to talk to each other anymore. Better to let an impartial party decide, they thought. What they believed would be a quick resolution turned into a legal marathon lasting years. The high costs of attorney fees, court appearances, and endless paperwork took a toll on their finances and emotional well-being. Before they knew it, half of what they were fighting over was gone to professional fees. After 28 months in the litigation process, they realized they had spent more time in the courtroom over the past two years than they had on vacation, which they couldn’t afford because of their legal fees. With half of their savings gone, they figured out a settlement between themselves before the rest went to their attorneys.
The Out-of-Court Odyssey: Pros and Cons
- Cost-Effective: Mediation or collaborative divorce can save you a boatload of money compared to a courtroom brawl.
- Control and Flexibility: You and your ex have a say in the outcome. You get to decide what’s best for you and your family, not a stranger in a robe. Also, with mutual agreement, you can create your schedule and move through the process at the right pace for your situation.
- Less Stress: The atmosphere is more relaxed and less adversarial. You’re not in a cold, intimidating courtroom. It’s more like a conversation (albeit a highly important one).
- Mutual Agreement Required: For this to work, you and your going-to-be ex must be on board with the idea of working together. If your spouse is hell-bent on going to court, that’s a whole different ballgame.
- Non-Binding Decisions: Sometimes, you can’t avoid court entirely. If you hit a roadblock, unresolved issues might end up there anyway. You can finalize the decisions made out of court in your court filing, but they are binding once they are official with the court.
The Collaborative Victory
Then there’s Sherm and Lia, who chose the Collaborative Process for their divorce. Lia clearly understood their financial situation and wanted to prioritize their children’s well-being. Sherm hadn’t paid a bill or invested in anything since they’d been married. He was happy to let Lia take care of it. Now that he would need to take his financial well-being on for himself, he didn’t feel confident in his level of understanding. With the guidance of a skilled coach, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and their attorneys (all trained in the Collaborative Process to support Lia and Sherm as a team, they worked together to create a fair and amicable settlement. Lia had the extra emphasis on the co-parenting agreement she wanted, and Sherm had someone to help him know the consequences of their financial decisions. The process was efficient, and they avoided litigation’s financial and emotional strain.
How to Decide: The Informed Divorce™ Way
So, Brenda, you ask, how in the world do I make this agonizing decision? Well, it’s a soul-searching process, my friend. Here’s the Brenda Bridges Way – I call it Informed Divorce™:
- Consider Your Priorities: Take a good, hard look at what matters most to you. Is it financial stability? Minimal conflict? A swift resolution? Let your priorities guide you.
- Match your situation to your options: Can you be in the same room with your spouse? Can you have a conversation, especially if facilitated? Do you feel safe? Do you need extra support and information in any area?
- Hire The Right Professionals: Professionals may have different areas of expertise in their practice. You would not hire an attorney who hasn’t been Collaboratively trained to work with you in a Collaborative divorce, nor would you likely want an attorney who primarily does mediation to represent you in a case that will most likely be resolved in the courtroom.
Prioritizing the Children
Meet Karen and Joe, parents who decided to take their divorce out of the courtroom. They had one clear priority: their young children’s well-being. They maintained a cooperative co-parenting relationship through mediation, sparing their kids the trauma of a bitter court battle. With the help of their mediator, they also talked through many of the things they didn’t see eye to eye on as married parents to figure out how they would handle them in separate households. This allowed them to create a comprehensive co-parenting agreement, tackling discipline between homes and curfews and driving rules. The plan included details well beyond their state’s Parenting Plan requirements.
Communication Is Key: Talk it out with your ex. Seriously. Lay your cards on the table. You’re halfway there if you both see eye to eye on staying out of court.
Consult with Professionals: Get some expert advice. Talk to a mediator, divorce coach, or collaborative attorney. They can help you explore your options and determine if you’re a good candidate for an out-of-court divorce.
Expert Guidance in Collaboration
And then there’s Mark and Jeremy, who were unsure about the out-of-court option but decided to consult with a seasoned mediator. The mediator walked them through the process, addressing their concerns and uncertainties and ultimately helping them make an informed decision.
- Stay Open-Minded: Be open to flexibility. Sometimes, a hybrid approach can work, with specific issues resolved amicably and others through the court system.
A Hybrid Solution
Michael and Rachel found themselves at a crossroads during their divorce. While they opted for mediation for most issues, a particularly contentious property dispute required court intervention. By staying open-minded and flexible, they found a unique solution that fit their circumstances. They agreed where they could, saving themselves an awful lot of time and money, and where they agreed to disagree, they sought a court ruling to finish the process.
Remember, this is your life, your future, and your family. It’s a decision you’ll have to live with long after the ink is dry. So, choose wisely, my friend, and don’t forget—you’ve got this!
If you’re looking for some extra guidance, reach out. We’re here to help.