When Should You Litigate a Divorce?

Divorce has long lost most of its social stigma, but has it also lost all its rancor, as well? In the past, it was common to think of divorce as a largely adversarial situation, with both parties aiming to “win” in the proceedings.

Now, it’s an era that focuses more on communication, co-parenting and even “conscious uncoupling,” divorcing spouses often try to remain civil. Even the courts generally encourage spouses to come to agreements on their own – with or without some form of collaborative divorce process or mandatory mediation.

Most couples do, eventually, end up with an “uncontested” (or unlitigated) divorce that allows them to define the terms of their split, including issues of property division and support.

Is litigation sometimes the better option? It can be. Consider these three situations:

  1. There’s a lot at stake and your spouse is hiding things.

You know your spouse the best, and you know when they’re being sneaky or sly. There are a lot of marital assets that have to be divided and you’re absolutely certain that your spouse isn’t coming clean about them all.

If you suspect offshore bank accounts, hidden trusts or “business” transactions that are really an attempt to hide assets and income, you are probably going to have to get the court involved.

  1. Your spouse has been abusive and intimidates you.

It’s hard to negotiate from a position of strength when you’re scared of the other party. Whether your spouse has been physically abusive, emotionally abusive or both, they may still try to intimidate you during the negotiation process in order to get what they want. The court won’t allow such shenanigans during a trial, and that could make for a fairer outcome.

  1. Your spouse is using the negotiation process to drag things out.

Most people prefer an uncontested divorce because it’s quicker and cheaper than one that moves to litigation, but the negotiation process can be abused. Sometimes spouses will intentionally drag out the process as a way to control the other party or even to punish them for leaving. If negotiations keep getting turned around and are unproductive, litigation may ultimately be the best way to cut ties.

Only you can decide whether negotiation or litigation is the answer to your situation, but there is legal guidance available that can help you better understand the options.