Out of Court Divorce
Getting a divorce is always a taxing, protracted process, but by reaching a settlement out of Court you can save yourself a great deal of time, money, and anxiety. Whether your case involves alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance, child support payments, child custody issues, legal decisions, or jointly-owned property, the law permits you to make a divorce agreement with your spouse to avoid spending weeks, months, or years dealing with the matter in court. It’s acceptable to work out an agreement whenever you like, up to or even during your final hearing, with no penalties or demands imposed by the legal system.
An out-of-court settlement on issues such as equitable distribution of property, spousal and child support, and the amount of time each parent will have custody of children involves the spouses making their own decisions and is referred to as being an uncontested divorce. On the other hand, acontested divorce is one where the spouses fail to resolve these issues on their own so the decision-making is left to the Court. Although judges are prepared to hear divorce cases and decide issues for people, they’re always willing to accept an equitable out-of-court settlement. Indeed, judges are pleased when spouses can handle a divorce on their own, and so save the Court’s time, energy, and resources.
Steps to Settling a Divorce Out of Court
Below are the basic steps to follow in reaching a fair out of court settlement on the division of jointly-held property, child care responsibilities, alimony, and other key issues. If you patiently pursue these actions one step at a time, your divorce will be less stressful and you can continue your life without further delay.
1. Consult an Experienced Divorce Attorney
Even though your relationship with your spouse may be amicable, it’s important to seek a lawyer’s advice from the start of the divorce process, as the Court will hold you responsible for following the rules, and you could be fined or have your case dismissed if you miss a deadline. Having an attorney’s guidance will also help you remain focused and feel more confident throughout the process. When it comes to essential legal duties, you will still need to submit a divorce petition and all other required paperwork, such as child support documents. A lawyer can help in this effort by getting the documents ready and ensuring they fully accord with your needs.
2. Arrange a Meeting with Your Spouse
Schedule a talk in a neutral place and have a frank, relaxed conversation about what you expect from the divorce. Certain issues may be more significant to you than to your spouse, and vice versa, so be sure to clarify your interests. At this meeting, be wary of signing any documents or of entering into any verbal agreements before you fully grasp their meaning because they are legally binding. You can review the proposals with your lawyer before coming to a decision.
3. Collect All of Your Financial Data
You will need to have all of your financial information on hand to discuss child support arrangements, spousal maintenance, division of jointly held property, and other matters. Your divorce attorney can assist you in locating all of the paperwork you need and in making a practicable plan based on your current economic situation.
4. Develop a Strategy for Handling Parental Duties
If you have children, they’re no doubt your main concern. What should the timetable for parenting duties be? Are you cordial enough with your spouse to create a co-parenting arrangement? What will the amount of child support payments be? Your attorney can assist you in filling out the child support worksheet with the necessary data. This form is used by the Court to establish each parent’s basic child supportresponsibilities, and is based upon the parents’ combined net income per month, as well as other expenses related to the children, so as to calculate each parent’s child support obligation. Lawyers knowledgeable in family law are aware of these matters and can assist in developing a plan that will suit your family’sneeds.
5. If Necessary, get Help through a Mediator or Other Type of Dispute Resolution
If after sincere negotiations you and your soon to be ex-spouse can’t agree, you can try other ways to resolve the matter and still avoid divorce court. For example, an impartial mediator may be able to help you reach an agreement through negotiation. Or you and your spouse may choose a Collaborative Divorce process to help resolve the conflict.
6. File Your Divorce Agreement with the Court
Once you come to an arrangement, you and your spouse will sign it and submit it to the Court. Being a legal contract, once signed, your agreement is binding. A judge will then review the document to guarantee that it’s in accord with the relevant state laws and incorporate it into the final court order.
Advantages of Out of Court Divorce
Not all divorcing couples can overcome their resentment and agree on their issues. Even when a third party is involved, some spouses still can’t see eye to eye. Among the most difficult issues to overcome are unfaithfulness and family violence. However, for people who are able to reach an amicable out-of-court settlement, many benefits may be gained, such as the following.
Settling Out of Court Saves Time
When the spouses resort to the courts to finalize a divorce, the proceedings can go on for months or years. The divorcing parties can wind up stuck in an endless cycle of filing and responding to a stream of documents, including the summons, the petition for dissolution of marriage, the answer and counter-petition, motions, and possibly others. Thus, the spouses may feel trapped in an endless state of anticipation and uncertainty.
Settling Out of Court Saves Money
When a lawyer files or responds to divorce documents, legal fees are charged. Fees are also involved in court hearings and any other activities your lawyer engages in on your behalf. So, when the divorce finally goes to court, you may have already spent thousands of dollars. Settling out of court is much less costly than having a judge settle your divorce.
A Mutual Agreement Reduces Stress
One of the greatest advantages of an out of court divorce settlement is that spouses feel far less pressure and stress. If you initially commit to resolving your issues, and do so in good faith, you will avoid the negative feelings typically associated with divorce.
You Can Feel Content Knowing You Worked out Your Issues on Your Own
When you get divorced, it can feel like you’re giving up. However, when you work through the process with your ex-spouse, you’ll feel satisfied in knowing you’ve managed to handle a situation that at first looked overwhelming and then move on in life with greater self-confidence.