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Settlement vs. Litigation – Which is Best for You?

Just as marriage is one of the happiest, hope-filled, and harmonious times we experience, divorce brings some of the saddest, depression-filled, and adversarial times. Couples rarely choose to divorce while they’re working well together, and so the process of dividing assets, allocating child custody, and deciding on child and spousal support can be a time of the highest conflict. Soon-to-be-ex-spouses can choose to maximize that conflict or minimize it, depending on which path they take: Settlement or Litigation.

Below are some questions to consider as you decide whether to attempt a divorce settlement with (or without) the assistance of a third-party mediator, or to insist on litigation.

  • Are you able to put your pain and anger aside and think logically about the future? Whether you are feeling betrayed, guilty, or just depressed, are you capable of making reasoned and informed choices about your future? Can you become capable within a few weeks? If you can’t think rationally about a settlement, you may wish to put your future well-being into the hands of a neutral judge, who will try his or her best to make the divorce as fair as possible, based on the information you’re able to present in court. The judge’s decision won’t be a perfect fit, and it’s unlikely to take into account some of the unique aspects of your life, but at least you won’t have to make those tough decisions yourself.
  • Can you communicate with your ex-spouse with civility? Civil communication in a divorce can be difficult, though a trained mediator may be able to help smooth communication if tempers begin to flare. If you find it impossible to discuss the tough issues, such as incomes, investments, custody and visitations, as well as child and spousal support, with your ex-spouse without yelling, perhaps you will benefit from the more formal environment of the courtroom with final orders being handed down by a Judge.
  • How much money are you willing to spend on your divorce? It can be hard to put a price on peace of mind, and on the thrill of trying to put an ex-spouse in his or her place, but it can be equally difficult to recover financially after a divorce, even before you pay your attorney’s fees. Mediation will help minimize court costs and attorney’s fees, and ensure that your share of the combined assets is as large as it can be, while litigation will increase the costs and ensure that your share of the combined assets is less than you started with.
  • Is your ex-spouse willing to compromise fairly? Unfortunately, you can’t decide to compromise all by yourself if your ex-spouse is being unreasonable. If the other party is demanding things in the divorce that you cannot, in good conscience, allow or are unwilling to give up, litigation may be the only option.

The bottom line, of course, is that a mutually agreed upon settlement is almost always more beneficial to all parties than litigation. Litigation is costly in time, in money, in uncertainty, and in emotional stress. A settlement conference or mediation, on the other hand, is able to empower the parties to decide the shape of their futures – and their children’s futures – with a minimum of stress, uncertainty, money, and time expended.

The Orange County Family Law Firm of Pinkham and Associates have over 16 years of experience in helping their clients through their divorces. Call today for a free consultation: 714-730-0111.

April 15, 2015



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