We always recommend that people try to settle a divorce before filing a complaint. The most important reason we give for this approach is that filing a complaint for divorce puts your life into the court system. You are required to file various documents and attend court appearances. Often, when you settle a divorce before going into the court system, you save a great deal of money, time and aggravation. However, there are times that trying to settle a divorce pre-complaint can backfire.
There are two situations we encounter on a regular basis. The first is when two parties agree to attend mediation without retaining individual attorneys. This sounds like a great, cost-efficient approach. However, how long do you give the process? In our office, we have seen a case where two parties went to mediation for eight years and never fully reached an agreement. In another case, the parties went to mediation for two years with a very experienced family law attorney and one party simply will not agree to finish the process. Given that many of our laws deal with duration of the marriage or whether assets were acquired before the complaint for divorce is filed, spending many months or years in mediation can have a substantial adverse impact on the issues in your divorce if you do not settle.
The other common situation we see is attorney-directed settlement attempts prior to filing a complaint. Our common practice is to send our client’s spouse a settlement proposal before filing a complaint. Sometimes, the other spouse retains an attorney, sends a response, and we are on the road to settlement. Other times, our letter goes without a response for many weeks or months. The issue our clients have to face is when should we stop waiting and file a complaint.
Trying to settle a divorce pre-Complaint is great in theory, but sometimes in practice can be counterproductive. One thing you can do is agree to end the marriage as of a certain date while settlement negotiations proceed. However, not everyone will agree to a stipulated end date of the marriage. When you go down this road, you have to be mindful that settlement is important, but ensuring you start the divorce process if there is no settlement, which can take more than a year, is equally important.
Contact us if you want to see what approach to settlement is best for you and your case. We will not tell you what you want to hear. We will tell you what you need to know.