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Most New Jersey Divorces are Settled Before Trial. Should I Take it to Court?


The overwhelming majority of New Jersey divorces are settled prior to trial, either with mediation or with an accepted offer of settlement.

It’s only in cases where spouses absolutely cannot reach an agreement on key issues like property division, child custody or alimony that they ask a judge to intervene and decide it for them.

Cases that go to trial are often those that deal with very knotty emotional or financial issues. Other times, one side is being incredibly stubborn and/or vengeful. Still, if pre-trial settlement is at all a possibility, many couples find that to be the preferable alternative.

Benefits of Pre-Trial Divorce Settlements

In short, the benefits of pre-trial divorce settlement versus a trial are:

  • It’s less expensive;
  • It usually takes less time (months or even years);
  • You retain greater control of the outcome;
  • It’s often less exhausting.

Not only does it cost more in attorney fees to go to trial, but it can require hiring teams of highly skilled professionals, such as forensic accountants, tax specialists, valuation experts, physicians, psychologists, real estate appraisers and vocational consultants. (Sometimes divorce settlement negotiations necessitate these experts too, but not always.)

That’s not to say the investment isn’t worth it, but it’s not a process you want to enter without careful consideration of the cost-benefit analysis.

How do our clients decide whether to continue settlement talks or take the dispute to court?

To Litigate or Not to Litigate?

Trial can seem a very tempting prospect if your soon-to-be-ex is refusing to budge on a key point after months of negotiation. “Let a judge decide, then,” you may think.

It may well be time, and your Middlesex County divorce lawyer should advise you on all the pros and cons of each option.

Some things to think about before heading to court:

  • What is it you’re arguing over? If the issue is that you can’t decide the details of parenting time or how much spousal support should be paid, it’s usually advisable to leave that in the capable hands of a good attorney experienced in mediation or negotiation. However, if you can’t agree on whether there should even be spousal support or if one of you is pushing for sole custody or one party is hiding assets or income – those are matters that may need to be handled directly by a court. Be certain, though, that whatever the issues you’re turning to a court to resolve are worth it.
  • Are you able to afford a trial? If you’re going to spend more paying for a trial than you would by simply agreeing to your ex’s original terms, it may be worth conceding. Our New Jersey divorce lawyers will always advise what is in our client’s best interest. It’s not about simply acquiescing to your former spouse’s unfair terms just so you don’t have to take it to trial, but it’s not a time and expense commitment one can take lightly.
  • Can you give up control to a judge? Once a case goes to court, the level of control you have over the outcome is drastically limited. Although the judges in the Middlesex County Superior Court are qualified professionals, there is no guarantee they are going to see matters your way. Once the judge issues a decision, you must abide by it unless there are legal grounds to appeal it (i.e., abuse of discretion) OR there is a significant change of circumstances later that warrants a modification.
  • Are your emotions playing an outsized role? Saying, “I’ll see you in court” might feel good, but is it really the best way to reach the most favorable outcome in your case? Have a frank discussion with your divorce lawyer about how much a trial is likely to cost, how long it will take and what the odds are that you’ll prevail. Make your decision based on this information, not strictly your feelings.

There will be cases in which trial is truly only reasonable choice. If your spouse is narcissistic, abusive, mentally unwell or hiding assets, trial may be the only way to resolve these issues while preserving your safety and well-being (financial and emotional).

Our longtime family law legal team will work tirelessly to help you reach your goals in the case and finalize everything as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

To learn more about filing for divorce in New Jersey, contact Rozin | Golinder Law today at (732) 810-0034.

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