Divorce can be a complicated and emotional process. Many couples are able to come to an agreement through mediation or negotiation, but not all divorces end amicably. In some cases, a divorce may go to trial.
There are several reasons why a divorce might end up in court. One common reason is that the couple cannot agree on how to divide their assets, property, and debts. Another reason is if there are issues related to child custody and support.
At a trial, both parties will present evidence and make arguments before a judge who will ultimately decide how these issues will be resolved. Going to trial is often considered a last resort as it can be time-consuming, expensive, and stressful for everyone involved.
“Trials are like earthquakes – they expose things that people thought were hidden beneath mountains.” -Amy Lindsay
If you’re going through a divorce, it’s important to understand why a case might go to trial and what that means for your situation. Keep reading to learn more about this process and what you can expect if your divorce does end up in court.
In most cases, divorcing couples can reach an agreement outside of court when it comes to dividing property, debts and child custody. However, there are times where a divorce goes to trial due to various contested issues. Contested issues refer to disagreements between the spouses that cannot be resolved through negotiation or mediation.
The main disputes in a divorce trial include:
- Division of Assets and Debts: Spouses may have significant assets or debts that need to be divided fairly. If the couple is not on the same page, one spouse may request the court to intervene by providing guidance on how to divide the assets/debts.
- Child Custody: When couples have children, deciding who gets custody can become highly contentious. Couples can disagree on things such as the visitation schedule, decision-making authority, and more.
- Spousal Support: Also known as alimony, spousal support refers to payments made by one spouse to the other. The amount of alimony depends on factors such as income, earning capacity, education level, health, and age.
- Paternity: Paternity disputes arise when the husband denies being the biological father of a child born during his marriage. Such cases require DNA testing to verify paternity.
If you find yourself in any of the situations above, it’s essential to have a skilled family law attorney representing you. Your attorney can help you develop strategies for resolving these contested issues without going to trial. Here are some of the ways your attorney can help:
- Negotiation: During the process of divorce, your attorney can help you communicate with your spouse in an effort to reach a settlement outside of court. Both parties will need to agree on all issues.
- Mediation: Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process where divorcing spouses meet with a neutral third party (mediator) aimed at resolving disputes. Unlike negotiation, mediation involves a trained mediator who helps couples come up with a mutually acceptable plan for division of assets/debts, child custody, spousal support, and more
- Collaborative Divorce: Similar to mediation, collaborative divorce allows couples to resolve contested issues amicably without going to trial. Collaborative attorneys work together and share information freely, so both sides understand each other’s positions. It is usually faster than litigation and costs less.
- Litigation: If none of these options present viable solutions or your ex-spouse refuses to negotiate, then filing a lawsuit and taking the case to court might be necessary. A skilled family law attorney can represent you before the judge and argue your case.
“In most cases, divorce trials could be avoided by engaging in alternative dispute resolution methods such as negotiation, mediation or collaboration.”
If you are considering divorce or facing contested issues, it’s crucial that you seek legal advice from a reputable and experienced family law attorney. The attorney can advise you on which option is best suited for your situation to ensure that you achieve the best possible outcome.
Division of Assets
In a divorce, many financial disputes may arise. One such dispute is the division of assets. This can often be one of the most contentious issues in a divorce proceeding. When it comes to dividing up assets during a divorce, there are several factors that need to be considered.
Firstly, if one party brought property or assets into the marriage, they may be entitled to keep those assets. Secondly, if an asset was acquired during the marriage, it may be considered marital property and divided equally between both parties. However, other factors such as the length of the marriage, the earning capacity of each spouse, and any prenuptial agreements may also come into play when determining how assets should be divided.
“Marital property typically includes all income earned during the marriage, as well as any property purchased with those funds.” -Dan Couvrette, Huffington Post
Another common financial dispute in a divorce proceeding is spousal support, also known as alimony. Spousal support refers to payments made from one spouse to the other for their financial support following the divorce. Spousal support is determined based on a variety of factors including the duration of the marriage, the income disparity between spouses, and the standard of living established during the marriage.
It is important to note that spousal support is not always awarded in a divorce proceeding. The court will consider the specific circumstances surrounding the divorce before making a decision. In some cases, if both spouses have similar incomes and earning potentials, neither may be required to pay spousal support.
“The purpose of spousal support is to provide financial assistance to the lesser-earning spouse to ensure that they can maintain a similar standard of living following the divorce.” -Divorce Magazine
The final financial dispute that may arise during a divorce proceeding is child support. Child support refers to payments made from one parent to the other for the care and support of their children following a divorce. The amount of child support is determined based on several factors including the income of both parents, the number of children involved, and any special needs or circumstances that may exist.
It is important to note that child support is a legal obligation that cannot be discharged through bankruptcy or avoided in any other way. If a parent fails to make child support payments, they may face serious legal consequences such as wage garnishment, property seizure, or even jail time.
“The purpose of child support is to provide financial assistance to the custodial parent to ensure that the child’s basic needs are met following the divorce.” -Forbes
Financial disputes are common in divorce proceedings and may require a trial if the parties cannot reach an agreement outside of court. Whether it is division of assets, spousal support, or child support, these disputes can have lasting effects on both spouses and their families. It is important for each party to consult with their own attorney and understand their rights before going to trial.
Custody and Visitation Disputes
It is common for divorcing couples to have disagreements over child custody and visitation in the course of their separation. Here are some helpful insights into why a divorce might go to trial when it comes to custody disputes.
Types of Custody Arrangements
In most cases, courts prefer that children maintain frequent contact with both parents unless there’s evidence of abuse or neglect on one parent’s part. There are mainly two types of custody arrangements:
- Joint physical custody: In joint physical custody, the children will reside with each parent at different times, with schedules decided between the parents or mandated by a court order.
- Sole custody: With sole custody, only one parent has the legal authority to make major decisions about the lives of the children. The other parent may have visitation rights but will not share custody of the children fully.
Factors Considered in Custody Decisions
If you’re planning to initiate a custody battle, then be prepared as the court looks out for what’s best for the kids. The following factors can affect the outcome of your case:
- The age, gender, health, and needs of the children
- The mental and physical health of the parents
- The emotional relationship between the children and each parent
- The lifestyle choices of the parents
- The ability of each parent to give proper care, love, affection, guidance, medical attention, food, clothing, etc. to their children
- The presence of violence, addicts, or any kind of substance abuse in the family
- The geographical location of the parents and their willingness to cooperate with each other for the sake of their children
The parent who doesn’t have custody rights will usually receive visitation privileges. In some cases, a court may dictate specific times or arrangements when visitations can take place. That being said, here are the different types of visitation agreements:
- Unsupervised Visitation: Where the non-custodial parent visits alone with the child
- Supervised Visitation: When a third-party supervisor is present during the time spent between the non-custodial parent and the child.
- Vacation Parenting Time: Allows the non-custodial parent to spend an extended period with the kids outside regular schedule and could be up to 30 days.
Child Custody Relocation
If one parent wants to relocate while having joint legal custody over the children, they need to file a motion to change the primary residence order with the court. They must satisfy the court that the relocation won’t be against the best interests of the child, after considering many factors concerning the move such as:
- The reason why the relocating parent wants to make the move-
- The extent to which moving would impact on the non-relocating parent’s access to the children,
- The nature of the relationship between the child and both parents,
- The suitability of new living conditions relative to existing ones, etc.
“The most important consideration in deciding these disputes is always what’s going to be in the best interest of the child” -Charlie Robinson
We hope that these insights were helpful to you. In conclusion, custody battles can be challenging and take a toll on everyone involved in the process, but having an experienced family law attorney by your side can make all the difference.
Complex Asset Division
A divorce is considered to be a complex asset division case when there are high net worth assets involved. These cases involve the equitable distribution of property, such as businesses, investments, real estate, and retirement accounts.
In this type of case, hiring an experienced attorney who has dealt with similar cases is crucial. The process of identifying, valuating, and distributing assets can be complicated, time-consuming, and emotionally draining. It’s not uncommon for these cases to go to trial.
If both parties cannot agree on how to divide their assets fairly, the court will have to make decisions for them based on various factors such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s income and earning capacity, and each spouse’s contributions to the acquisition of the property.
“Relying solely on the judge may be unpredictable – it is better to take matters into your own hands by amicably contracting outside services in accordance with guidelines established under state statues.” -EstateExec
A business owned by one or both spouses usually adds complexity to divorce proceedings, especially if it is successful and profitable. Business valuation is necessary to determine its fair market value so that each spouse gets a share equal to his/her contribution.
This typically involves analyzing financial records, assessing brand equity, considering legal provisions, and evaluating goodwill, among other things. Thus, business valuation takes time and resources, which prompts many couples to litigate instead of settling outside of court.
An accountant could provide neutral third-party appraisal, while attorneys examine details to evaluate shareholder agreements/non-compete clauses/etc., but sometimes experts disagree even after meticulous assessments taken place, requiring judges’ intervention.
“Sometimes litigation is required. Frankly, no amount of negotiation short of acquiescing to the other party’s demands will be enough. In such cases, a litigated asset distribution is mandatory.” -Houston Business Journal
High Net Worth Divorce
A high net worth divorce occurs when one or both parties have significant assets and income at stake. These marriages could require additional care, skill, psychological expertise, and financial acumen.
In comparison with an average uncontested divorce, this may involve more time-consuming valuations and disclosures of complex finances through sophisticated accountancy techniques. It further involves issues beyond equitable distribution. Decisions about alimony payments tend to require precise calculations in such cases.
Hence, these divorces usually involve lawyers who specialize in handling high-net-worth individuals’ family law matters. Such highly skilled attorneys can deal with complex financial structures efficiently and effectively, leading to a resolute conclusion; otherwise, it goes to trial for settlement.
“A key differentiator: Only hire an attorney well-versed in matrimonial finance laws to guide you through the process so that your interests are protected until a final decision is reached.” -Forbes
Pension and Retirement Accounts
Couples often consider pension plans and retirement accounts among their most valuable assets. Judges evaluate each spouse’s total benefits including life expectancy projections to ensure fair consideration to compensate for any difference between them. Factors depending upon federal and state laws which govern various types of retirement plans make allocation decisions even complicated.
Accordingly, deciding how to split pensions and retirements becomes difficult without professional assistance. Qualified domestic relations orders (QDROs) must be drafted accurately by family lawyers to divide these assets equitably as failure to do so would result into a tax liability on transfer.
If either party has neglected disclosing account information, there’s no possibility of working out an agreement outside court. In ascertaining value, resolve conflict with consistency and accuracy by letting impartial professionals handle the task.
“Hire a pension valuator who can determine what a plan is worth today and in the future, most of whom have extensive backgrounds working both for pension plans and consulting firms.” -Investopedia
Allegations of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is considered a serious offense in most states and is defined as physical harm, injury, or assault, or the threat thereof, committed by one family member against another. It is important to note that domestic violence can be both physical and emotional abuse. Emotional abuse tends to include tactics such as threats, humiliation, intimidation and isolation from support networks and may also occur alongside physical abuse.
In many cases involving allegations of domestic violence, it becomes a highly contested issue because often there are no witnesses except for the two parties involved, making it difficult for investigators to substantiate the claims made. If found guilty, domestic violence charges can have severe consequences including fines, jail time, probation or even result in personal protection orders (PPOs).
A restraining order or protective order is an order issued by a court which requires one person to stop certain behavior towards another individual or group under specific circumstances. In relation to allegations of domestic violence, this means that a judge will issue a legal order preventing alleged abusers from contacting their victim.
If you feel uneasy about your interactions with your partner, a restraining order can help provide some level of safety. Although a restraining order cannot guarantee complete protection from an abusive partner, it is critical in keeping an aggressor away from you since violation of a restraining order can lead to additional criminal proceedings and arrests.
Domestic Violence Counseling
Counseling is a common recommendation made after instances of domestic abuse have been documented. Counseling is used as a tool to ensure any underlying mental health or behavioral issues that could cause someone to resort to being violent during a divorce can be resolved.
Domestic violence counseling helps those who find it challenging to discuss their violent and controlling behavior with a professional. It is an excellent platform where individuals can get the necessary support, guidance and assistance they may need for self-improvement.
Impact on Child Custody and Visitation
If allegations of domestic violence are made in relation to child custody disputes, the court will prioritize the safety of the child above anything else. Therefore, there’s a chance that supervised visits may be granted to parents who have been found guilty of abuse charges by a judge during divorce proceedings.
Domestic violence charges could lead to losing temporary or permanent custody altogether due to the lack of ability to provide a safe environment for children. It’s important to note that the court may order limited interaction between an allegedly abusive parent and children if keeping them apart entirely would serve to further traumatize a child rather than protect them.
Criminal Charges and Penalties
Criminal prosecutions tend to follow in cases where domestic violence has occurred as it is considered to be criminal activity in most states. The penalties for those convicted of domestic violence range from light fines and probationary periods to lengthy prison sentences depending upon how severe the crime was.
If evidence of domestic violence ends up in the hands of law enforcement, the outcome is dependent on the severity of the offense along with the applicable state/country’s sanctions guidelines. Criminal punishment can be serious and result in jail time if not used under proper legal representation by qualified attorneys.
“Those who manipulate the control mechanisms of power know all too well that exploiting and abusing others through fear tactics is empowering for them.” – Dr. Christina Peterson
In some divorce cases, one spouse may be uncooperative and make the process much more difficult. This can lead to a trial if negotiation and mediation fail to settle the issues at hand.
One common issue that arises is disagreements over property division. If one spouse refuses to comply with court orders regarding this matter, it may result in legal action. In other cases, child custody and support disputes may also cause conflict between spouses.
It’s important to note that having an uncooperative spouse does not necessarily mean a divorce will automatically go to trial. However, when attempts at cooperation fail, it may be necessary to seek resolution through legal intervention.
Enforcing Court Orders
If one spouse violates a court order during the divorce proceedings, such as failing to pay spousal or child support, legal action may need to be taken to enforce the order. This often entails filing a motion for contempt of court.
A contempt of court charge can result in serious consequences, including fines and even imprisonment. It’s vital to adhere to any court orders, both for personal benefit and respect for the legal system.
Enforcement of court orders can be a lengthy and expensive process, involving subpoenaed financial records, testimony from witnesses, and other evidence. However, it’s always advisable to take swift legal action if your former spouse refuses to comply with the court’s instructions.
Contempt of Court
As previously mentioned, refusing to follow court orders can result in being charged with contempt of court. This legal term refers to behavior deemed disrespectful or disobedient towards the authority of a court of law.
When someone disregards a court order, they are essentially defying the legal system. This type of action can result in serious legal backlash and should be avoided at all costs.
If you are struggling with a spouse who is refusing to comply with court orders, it’s vital to seek the guidance of an experienced divorce attorney. They will help you navigate the complexities of the legal system and ensure your rights are protected.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
In many cases, couples are able to avoid going to trial by utilizing alternative dispute resolution methods. These include mediation and collaborative divorce processes, which aim to keep both parties engaged in working towards mutual goals.
Mediation involves a neutral third party who facilitates discussion between spouses to reach agreement on various issues. This process often results in quicker resolution of matters and saves significant time and money compared to litigation.
In collaborative divorce, each spouse has their own lawyer, and they work together outside of a courtroom setting to resolve conflicts and disputes related to property division, child custody, and other important aspects of divorce.
“Collaborative law offers a streamlined method for dividing assets that couple agree upon.” -Forbes
The key benefit of these alternatives is that they allow divorcing couples to maintain some degree of control over the outcome of their case. Additionally, these options prioritize communication and collaboration over confrontation and hostility.
Whether or not a divorce goes to trial depends on numerous factors, including the attitudes of both spouses, cooperation levels, and willingness to negotiate. If disputes continue despite attempts at alternative resolution, seeking legal intervention may become necessary.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some reasons a divorce might go to trial?
A divorce might go to trial if the couple is unable to come to an agreement on issues such as child custody, property division, or spousal support. In cases where one spouse is not willing to compromise or negotiate, a trial may be necessary to resolve the issues.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of going to trial in a divorce case?
The benefits of going to trial in a divorce case include having a judge make the final decision, which may be beneficial if one spouse is unwilling to compromise. However, trials can be time-consuming and expensive, and the final decision is ultimately out of the couple’s control. Additionally, the stress and emotional toll of a trial can be significant.
How is a divorce trial different from an out-of-court settlement?
A divorce trial is a formal legal proceeding where a judge makes the final decision on issues such as child custody, property division, and spousal support. An out-of-court settlement is an agreement reached between the couple outside of court. Settlements are typically less expensive and less time-consuming than trials, and the couple has more control over the final outcome.
What factors might a judge consider when deciding whether a divorce case should go to trial?
A judge might consider factors such as the complexity of the case, the willingness of the spouses to negotiate, and the potential impact on any children involved. If one spouse is being unreasonable or unwilling to negotiate, a trial may be necessary to ensure a fair outcome for both parties.
What should you do if your divorce is headed to trial?
If your divorce is headed to trial, it’s important to work with an experienced divorce attorney who can help you prepare and present your case effectively. You should also be prepared for the emotional stress of a trial and be willing to negotiate and compromise when possible to avoid a trial if it’s not necessary.