3 Strategies to Keep Your Virginia Divorce Out of Court
Everyone has heard the horror stories of divorce. Perhaps you have a friend who had to liquidate a child’s college fund to pay for his attorney. Another spent the better part of two years battling over custody of a young child. Yet another got an unfair decision from a “bad” judge. The stories are countless. However, most of these stories stem from litigation.
When two parties go to court to resolve a dispute, they guarantee the following outcomes:
1) a more expensive process – since virtually all family law attorneys bill by the hour, and litigation requires a great deal of hours to conduct discovery and prepare for a trial, going to court is undoubtedly going to be expensive;
2) an uncontrollable outcome – at trial, you place your fate in the hands of a judge who may have preconceived notions, miss something you said, or is just simply having a bad day; and
3) manufactured antagonism – litigation pits two sides against one another and forces them to say anything necessary to “win”. The chances of maintaining a working relationship with your spouse after trial are severely hampered.
So how does someone going through a divorce avoid such pitfalls? The following three strategies can help keep your Virginia divorce out of court:
Find “Your” Attorney
Even when you receive a referral to a divorce attorney, research your options. Maybe that attorney got your friend great results at trial, but if your goal is to stay out of court, then a lawyer who is more trial-focused may not be your top priority. Maybe a different attorney resolved a case out of court for a low cost, but if your case has complex financial issues, then you may want an attorney with a strong financial background. Hopefully you are fortunate enough to receive multiple referrals. Research those attorneys, find out who suits your needs, and meet the attorney to make sure you are comfortable and can trust his or her advice.
Research Alternative Out of Court Dispute Resolution
Many attorneys now practice various forms of alternative dispute resolution such as mediation, arbitration, and collaborative divorce. These forms of practice are specifically designed to enable collaboration, reduce costs, and prevent the case from going to court. Most people would be surprised to learn that a very high percentage of cases settle outside of court. However, there is a big difference between working together to settle a case from the outset and feeling pressured to settle right before trial because your attorney has focused most of his or her energy on trial. Months of discovery, preparation for trial, and last-minute negotiations are extremely costly, both financially and emotionally. Alternative dispute resolution can help carve a much safer, healthier, and cost-effective path for you and your family. Find an attorney that can provide you with those options.
Control Your Emotions
Divorce is not pretty. Being angry or even hating your spouse can feel natural. If you feel that way, stop for just a minute to think. Breathe. Reflect. Is that what you wanted, or were you hoping it could be amicable? You probably didn’t want to withdraw from your retirement savings or your child’s college funds. You may have even read studies encouraging a working relationship with your ex-spouse to benefit the child. People too often let their emotions get the best of them and they lose sight of what they really want. Unfortunately, many attorneys enable those emotions. Before you make a rash decision or blindly follow your attorney’s advice, assess the situation and revisit your goals.
If your priority is to keep your Virginia divorce out of court, it all begins with finding the right attorney. Find out if that attorney can offer you different divorce options such as collaborative divorce or mediation. Remember why you want to stay out of court in the first place and make sure your emotions don’t lead you down a different path. If you follow these strategies, you are likely to stay out of court and have an amicable, cost-effective, and healthier divorce for you and your family.