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When should you negotiate your divorce, and when should you litigate?

On Behalf of | Jul 23, 2023 | Divorce

When facing the end of a marriage, couples have two basic routes they can take: They can try to negotiate an agreement between themselves and ask the court to sign off on it, or they can go to litigation and let the court make all the major decisions.

Which route should you choose? The answer depends a lot on your priorities and goals, as well as your spouse’s willingness to come to the table.

When to choose negotiation

Negotiating a divorce requires both parties to work together to reach mutually acceptable agreements about everything from the division of assets and debts to custody and parenting issues. It’s best to go this way when:

  • You’re on amicable terms with your spouse (and hope to remain so). Negotiation is easier when a couple is still on relatively good terms, and the ability to craft flexible solutions to any issues in the divorce can make for a better post-divorce relationship.
  • You want to limit the emotional toll of the divorce on yourself or others. Because this method is less adversarial than litigation, it can help you reduce the psychological effects of your divorce on yourself or your children.
  • You want to save money or time. Divorce is not a quick process, but a litigated divorce can be very slow. When you litigate, not only is every motion, deposition, and hearing time-consuming, but they’re also expensive.
  • You have privacy concerns. Negotiations take place in private, which means you can keep your personal life out of the public eye. This could be important if you’re worried about reputational damage.

When you have a negotiated divorce, you can customize your split to your unique circumstances, and you have greater control over the end results.

When to choose litigation

Litigation is a much more formal process, and it’s inherently adversarial – but it’s also sometimes necessary. Consider this route when:

  • Your spouse refuses to cooperate. If your spouse is hiding income or assets, unwilling to engage in good faith negotiations or largely determined to fight over everything, the decision to litigate may be made for you.
  • You are concerned about a power imbalance. If there’s been a history of abuse, manipulation or intimidation in your marriage, litigation can give you protection and help ensure a fair outcome.

Remember: What works for your friends, relatives or neighbors may not be remotely suitable for your situation. By making informed decisions about your options and keeping your priorities in mind, you can navigate this difficult time with confidence and clarity.