What Exactly Is Divorce Litigation?

You have likely heard the term “divorce litigation” before or “going to divorce court.” But do you know what this means? For those who have never had to go to court for a family law matter like divorce, this can be a nebulous concept. We understand that not knowing what to expect from the litigation process can be stressful. Our goals are to provide our clients with strong, compassionate legal representation and to help them understand what to expect from the divorce litigation process.

Below we’ve answered some frequently asked questions about divorce litigation. Keep reading to learn more.

What Is Litigation & When is Divorce Litigation Necessary?

Divorce litigation is when a couple takes their divorce disputes to family court. When a couple can’t agree on a divorce matter, such as property division or spousal support, they, along with their respective lawyers, will submit their issues to the court for help achieving a resolution.

Divorces that must be litigated are what are called “contested divorces.” A contested divorce occurs when one or more divorce issues (property division, spousal support, child custody, etc.) are disputed by one or both parties. These cases must proceed to trial.

How Much Control Does the Judge Have During Divorce Litigation?

When a divorce matter goes before a judge, the judge has the final say in the matter. Each party will have the opportunity to present their evidence, and their lawyers will advocate for them. However, the judge, guided by California’s Family Code, will have the final say. This relative loss of control over the outcome of the divorce case can be difficult for some people to deal with. Yet, in some situations, it is both necessary and the fastest way to reach a resolution.

What You Should Know About Divorce Litigation

If you are going through a divorce and have to litigate your case in court, there are a few important things to remember. First of all, litigation can take longer than other divorce methods. Preparing for court, scheduling hearings, and appearing before the judge can be a long process. The minimum length of time for a divorce in California is six months. When you have to go to court, it can take much longer. It is not unheard of for a divorce to take upwards of a year.

Litigation may also be more expensive than working out your settlement between yourselves and your lawyers. This is directly tied to how long your case takes. Divorce litigation requires a lot of preparation on you and your lawyers’ parts. The more time that is spent on the case, the higher your legal fees will be. Furthermore, the more issues you have that must be presented to the judge, the higher your expenses.

It is also important to remember that divorce litigation is much more public than when a couple resolves their disputes out of court. When you appear before the judge, the hearing will be entered into the public record. By comparison, when you utilize a method like mediation, the details of your divorce remain private.

Why Might a Couple Choose Litigation over Mediation or Collaborative Divorce?

There are several situations in which a couple might choose to litigate their divorce in court. In cases where the couple struggles to agree or are estranged, they may be forced into a position where litigation is the only option. Similarly, if it looks like mediation or collaborative methods are unlikely to be successful, the couple will go straight to litigation instead of wasting time and money on other methods.

Litigation is also often necessary in situations where a couple has shared children or in high-net-worth divorces. Both types of cases can be difficult to resolve, and there is often a lot of animosity and contention regarding custody and support issues.

Though some people may see litigation as a loss of control, it can actually reduce animosity between the parties in high-stress or very contentious situations. Additionally, it can produce a resolution more quickly than if the couple was left to fight it out between themselves.

If you are considering a divorce and want more information on litigation, mediation, or collaborative divorce, reach out to our law firm to discuss your case. Our attorneys are experienced litigators, and we have extensive resources with which to help our clients throughout the divorce process, regardless of which divorce method they utilize.