Many Long Island residents who find themselves in the middle of a contentious divorce let negative feelings toward their estranged spouse block their ability to make a rational decision about accepting a settlement offer or demanding “their day in court.” Having a “day in court” is not a legal right—it is merely the result of two angry, former spouses failing to agree on the terms of the divorce. Often, this failure is more attributable to anger than it is to the lack of reasonable settlement offers by the parties. This blog post will explore the costs of taking the divorce to trial rather than attempting to negotiate reasonable compromises to thorny issues such as child support and property division.
The biggest cost: time
Perhaps the biggest expenditure of any divorce trial is time. If the parties cannot agree on a settlement of the terms that are the source of disagreement, the time to resolution may be extended by several months. Most importantly, the trial will be scheduled according to the court’s available dates, not the convenience of the parties. The court may decide to ask one or both attorneys to furnish additional information, which means that at least one of the parties could be expected to drop everything and gather the requested information. The trial may be scheduled at a time when at least one of the parties will be seriously inconvenienced.
Because time is money, the amount of attorneys’ fees will more likely than not be extended by the trial date being postponed. In addition, an attorney will be required to invest substantially more time in trial preparation than in settlement negotiations or drafting a settlement agreement. Depending on where the divorce will be tried, attorneys’ fees could reach the high five figures or perhaps six if the trial is protracted.
Litigation can be extremely stressful for both parties. The stress is not limited to the days of the actual trial. Parties tend to spend their free moments worrying about issues in the case. Personal schedules and schedules of young children may be continually disrupted. The effect of continual stress may disrupt relationships with children, friends or relatives.
Ignore the wish for “a day in court”
Many people express this wish because they want a forum to express their extreme dissatisfaction with the other party or they want an opportunity to tell a third person about some horrible act of the former spouse. Judges will not be impressed by such testimony because they have “heard it all.” Instead of demanding a day in court, a few hours spent with the case and exploring settlement options with an experienced divorce attorney will be a better expenditure of time.