Can You Avoid a Drawn-Out Court Appearance for Divorce?

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Jun 20, 2018

One thing needs to be clarified right off the bat because this is a question we get all the time here at Grunyk Family Law. Some states require a married couple to officially appear before a judge to dissolve a marriage and finalize a divorce. Others allow for the process to be completed virtually with no actual appearance in a courtroom needed. Regardless of what path you are taking you need to understand what can make the process easier. Even if you must stand before a judge you can make the time spent in the courtroom as little as a few minutes rather than a few hours or days- all by working with your spouse beforehand as much as possible to take care of any issues and to outline the details of the divorce. Once you both agree to the terms of the divorce, you can appear before the judge for a calm and mutual divorce that should be quick and easy. If you want to avoid a long drawn out court appearance for divorce, here are some tips that can help make getting a divorce as easy as possible for you both:

Resolving Issues on Your Own

If the divorce is mutual and there is no desire to attempt to salvage the marriage and there is minimal disagreement about why the divorce is occurring then a couple can try to resolve the details of the divorce on their own. Typically, the two big divorce issues that will need to be discussed and dealt with are:

  • property and debt division- who gets what of possessions you own and who is going to be responsible for what part of any debt you share?

  • alimony or spousal support– who will have custody of any minor children and what will the other parent be paying for child support or alimony?

Once you know how things will be divvied up between you and any issues with children and support payments have been agreed upon you can discuss your arrangement with your divorce attorney. It is important to take this step in order to ensure everything is sound legally. If everything looks good then you can proceed to the court appearance for a judge to give the final approval of your terms and to finalize the divorce.

Mediating Your Divorce

Mediation is a popular method of mutual divorce agreements and involves a third party working to help the couple discuss areas of concern and to reach compromises when there is not necessarily an amicable agreement on who gets what and who is responsible for what after the divorce is approved. The couple will provide the mediator with needed information about the marriage, assets, debts, minor children, and other details that are affecting the divorce proceedings. The mediator will then help the couple reach agreements on all the important points that the divorce will need to cover.

Mediation is ordinarily much less stressful than a contested divorce and depending on the details involved it may only take a few sessions to reach an agreement that allows the couple to proceed to the court appearance. Sometimes multiple visits are needed when the divorce is more hotly contested and it is these instances where a mediator can prove to be a very valuable asset to have during the process. They will help the couple plan the divorce and help prepare them for the court appearance for divorce if one is required by law or help with all the documents for getting a divorce if that is all that is needed.

Collaborative Divorce

While this approach is very similar to mediation with the same goal of reaching a settlement, it is structured differently and offered different benefits. Collaborative divorce doesn’t involve a mediator or other intermediary. Rather, each spouse meets together with their attorneys present for a four-way discussion about the divorce. Collaborative law can be thought of almost like a tag team discussion- each person getting to offer input and feedback. All participants are obligated to work together to reach an agreement and if the couple refuses to work together or communicate then a collaborative approach is not going to work. Some people feel more comfortable having someone represent them legally from the very start of the process and they choose to prepare for the court appearance for divorce with this sort of meeting. It is important to remember that if the negotiations fail and no agreement can be made, you have to start the formal divorce process over again and find new lawyers to represent you as in almost all states an attorney cannot represent you a second time in a divorce case. This could mean a significant additional expense and a lot more time, so it is best to use this approach only if there is little concern about you or your spouse arriving at an impasse during the discussions.

Divorce Arbitration

Divorce arbitration is one other option available and it is “often utilized by couples who don’t believe they’ll be able to settle their dispute but want someone to decide their issues outside of the normal court process. Whereas mediation and collaborative divorce are geared to settling your case, the goal of arbitration is for the arbitrator to adjudicate the matter and issue a decision, much as a judge would after a trial” (DivorceNet). Arbitration is attractive to some couples and it does have some benefits over a court hearing for your divorce.

You and your spouse are able to choose who you have as the arbitrator. In court, the couple has no say in who the judge is who hears their case. You can also be more relaxed when it comes to testimony and supporting evidence with arbitration than with an actual trial. The major drawback of using the arbitration method of getting a divorce is that the decision is binding and final. Unless you can prove a gross misuse of power or other issues with the ruling, you usually are unable to appeal the decision. With a court trial, you can appeal the final decision that the judge hands down.

Ultimately, only the couple can decide what is right but it is important to keep in mind that this is not a cheaper or faster way to get the divorce approved. You will have to pay the arbitrator in addition to your attorney and that can get expensive, especially in a complex or highly contested divorce case.

No matter which option is right for you and your unique case, it is important to take the time to find an experienced family law attorney, one who can help guide you through the process. If you need help preparing for your court appearance for divorce or have questions about the legal obligations you have when you are getting a divorce contact us today. Here at Grunyk Family Law we have decades of experience and are ready to put them to work fighting for you and your rights. No matter how simple or messy your divorce may be, we can help so call for a consultation appointment today!

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