Generally, settling disputes on your own is more cost-effective than going to court assuming both sides negotiate in good faith. However, emotions often get in the way especially in divorce matters. Spouses may have personal reasons for wanting to pursue their legal position even if it doesn’t make sense legally or financially. While you may want to “win,” that can come at a high price. How do you know when it is worth settling your divorce dispute instead?
Two recent cases illustrate some of the factors you should consider before litigating your conflict:
- During the marriage, the Wife gave her Husband a loan from her trust fund which he had agreed to pay back. During the divorce proceedings, she was seeking to obtain those funds. However, the Husband was an alcoholic and had financial issues. While she could pursue the full amount in court and probably win, she would have to pay legal fees to litigate the matter as well as to collect on a debt which the Husband would likely not have the funds to pay. In addition, she would have to deal with the stress associated with prolonging the resolution of the divorce. As a result, she decided it made sense for her to settle for less than the full amount owed to her so she could move forward in her life.
- Husband and Wife had a poorly drafted prenuptial agreement. In the divorce proceeding, the Husband attempted to pressure the Wife into accepting less than what she could reasonably recover in litigation. The Husband was a bully during the marriage as well, which was why they were divorcing. She wanted to get out of the marriage quickly but did not want to lose out on what she could otherwise obtain. We advised her to consider what she was likely to recover against the legal fees she would have to pay for a long court battle. In addition, there were some risks that she would not be able to recover everything she sought. Ultimately, she weighed these along with the emotional toll of litigating to settle for a figure that was well above the initial settlement offer and no less than she probably would have obtained in court minus the large legal fees she would have incurred.
The benefit of a settlement is that the parties are in control of the costs and outcome of the case. In litigation, the judge decides. Even where a party has a strong position, there are risks in allowing the matter to go to court. However, it is also important to not automatically cave in negotiations or settle at all costs. A skilled attorney can advise regarding when settling your divorce dispute is a good option.
Divorcing spouses don’t have to settle every dispute, but it is beneficial to try to resolve as many issues as they can between themselves to limit what needs to be litigated. If you are considering divorce, contact us to learn how we can help you get the best result in your matter.