Most people who decide to end their marriage look for the least painful process, especially if they have children. However, coming to an agreement with a soon-to-be-ex isn’t always easy.

Many couples decide to work together to find common ground over their children’s custody and distributing assets and income. But what happens if one party won’t cooperate?

Considerations for a divorce dilemma

Before deciding whether to let a judge make the important decisions over a contested divorce, here are some things to consider:

  • Time: It’s possible you could spend more than a year waiting for a trial, depending upon the court’s calendar. Settlements are usually achieved within a few months. For litigation, you’ll also need to attend hearings and meet with your lawyer requiring you to take time away from work.
  • Cost: The longer the process takes typically means it will cost more. You pay your lawyer for their time to prepare for the trial, court fees for courtroom space and the judge’s time. These costs can quickly multiply. While each case is different, litigation can run well into the five-digit range while a settlement is usually much lower.
  • Emotions: A long contentious process can take an emotional toll on you and your family. Trials can be stressful, and those raw emotions can impact your children as well as your temperament in the workplace and with your friends. A bitter court fight with a former spouse can set a negative tone for the future co-parenting relationship.
  • Outcome: As you can see from the first three considerations, trials create more cost, take up more of your time and potentially lead to challenging future relationships. However, when a spouse refuses to negotiate in good faith over children, income or assets, litigation may be well worth the price.

Devise a reasoned divorce strategy

It’s essential not to let emotions dictate how you approach your divorce. Adopting a “win or lose” mentality, so you have your “day in court” isn’t a good reason to go to trial. Judges want to hear reasonable legal arguments over why you deserve more time with your children or a larger share of marital assets. They typically don’t want to listen to grievances against a spouse.

Remember, when you commit to a trial, you are putting these life-changing decisions in the hands of a stranger and must be willing to abide by those decisions. In some cases, a trial may be the only choice. However, consulting with an experienced family law attorney is a vital first step in starting your new life with the best possible outcome.