Divorce rates have consistently declined over the past 20 years, except for people over 50 years old. Couples who decide to end their marriage typically want to make the process as easy and painless as possible, especially if they have children.

When kids are the priority, many divorcing couples work together to determine a fair outcome over child custody, dividing marital assets and setting support levels. Those who can’t agree usually have a judge decide those matters for them.

Considerations for settling vs. litigating a divorce

Even people hurt by an unfaithful or abusive spouse should exercise caution over “having their day in court.” While the motivation to strike back may be justified, it is likely in their best interests to pursue a more peaceful settlement. Here are four elements to assess for finding the best divorce strategy:

  • Time: In normal times, divorce trials can take a year or more, but backlogged court calendars caused by the pandemic promise to increase that time considerably. Settlements may also take a little longer during the crisis but typically are accomplished within a few months.
  • Cost: The longer the process takes, the more it will cost. If litigation is the path you choose, you’ll pay for the time you and your attorney need to prepare for trial. When you add court costs and fees, expenses mount quickly. A trial can cost in the five-digit range, while settlements may only run a few thousand dollars.
  • Emotions: The longer and more expensive a divorce becomes, it’s likely to take a greater psychological toll on both parties, their children, extended family and even friends. Trials can also affect your career and home life when abiding by a court’s schedule and responding to hearings and information requests.
  • Outcome: While the three previous considerations favor settling your divorce, this element may be the only one where a trial makes the most sense. If your spouse refuses to meet you halfway over custody, asset division or income issues, a trial may be the only way to achieve a fair conclusion.

Don’t be swayed by emotion

Going to trial to “get back” at a spouse is not a good reason. Judges only want to hear fact-based arguments on why you deserve more time with your kids, a larger share of marital assets and higher support payments. They are typically not interested in hearing grievances with a spouse.

Consulting an experienced family law attorney is the best way to sort through these issues and find the best route for achieving a fair outcome. Your lawyer can help put things in perspective, negotiate with the other side, or aggressively fight for you in court if necessary.