No one envisions a nasty court battle when taking their marriage vows. But when a relationship no longer works, many people have the impression that divorce is always a contentious situation that unfolds in front of a judge in a courtroom.
While litigation can result, trials happen in less than 10% of all Louisiana divorces. Just as every marriage is unique, divorce is also different for every couple. No one wants to go to court, but it’s essential to understand when it may be in your best interests.
Negotiate or litigate?
Before making up your mind on how to proceed, it’s sensible to answer some crucial questions regarding the length, cost, potential stress and preferred financial outcome of your divorce. Here are four primary considerations:
No. 1: How long will it take?
- Bear in mind that each case is different. Divorce trials can take well over a year, depending upon the court’s schedule, while settlements usually take a few months.
No. 2: How much will it cost?
- It stands to reason that the longer your divorce takes, the more it will cost. You can expect to pay more in attorney fees along with court costs for a trial. Litigation can run well into the five-digit range. Settlements can usually be achieved for a few thousand dollars.
No. 3: How much stress can I handle?
- Trials are contentious by nature and can be highly stressful. Negotiations are typically peaceful as both parties usually aren’t too far apart on significant issues. The focus is on the future while you and your soon-to-be-ex control where, when and how often you meet.
No. 4: What is my best possible outcome?
- As you’ve probably noticed, the first three answers suggest that settling your differences is a cheaper, shorter and less stressful path. However, if your spouse won’t agree to an equitable settlement and refuses to negotiate in good faith, the only likely way to achieve a fair outcome is by going to court.
Be prepared by getting organized
Before you can accurately answer question No. 4, you need to understand your financial situation. When divorce is inevitable, collect information and documentation of all your accounts, assets and liabilities.
If you aren’t sure where they are or how to find them, it’s a good idea to seek legal help. That’s also advisable for high net worth couples when complex assets, such as businesses, investments and real estate, are involved.