The Function of Litigation in Divorce

The traditional approach to divorce is a litigation based primarily on the courts. In other words, we either go to court to let the court decide the terms of the divorce or we settle the case based on what we think the court would do if we went to court.

While other methods have been developed to help divorced couples resolve their problems through more collaborative methods like mediation and collaboration, many couples argue their divorces for a variety of reasons. This may be due to a history of domestic violence, an unreasonable spouse, or just unusual problems that are difficult to resolve.

Sometimes a divorce battle is inevitable

In litigation, our job as a lawyer is to organize the case in court, to negotiate for you with the opposing lawyer and to argue for you in court. A big part of our job is preparing the case for trial. Regardless of whether we expect the case to be brought to justice or not, preparation of the trial is the basis for all negotiations and must also be closed in the event that negotiations fail and the case actually has to be brought to justice.

There are several important steps in the process. At the beginning of the case it must be decided whether a hearing on temporary orders should take place. Often times, the court has to make arrangements for preliminary agreements pending legal proceedings – questions such as who should live in the house, how bills should be paid, what support may be required for children and / or spouses, how parents should be shared and whether for protection injunctions should be made by the parties.

Once we have a short term agreement, either by appointment or after a hearing, we move on to the discovery phase. Discovery basically refers to the process of gathering information. This can result in our customer collecting records for us, but it also requires the other side to provide information as well. This could be documents in their possession or answering questions on various subjects. This can be anything from collecting financial records like payrolls, tax returns, and bank statements to answering questions about your memory of certain events.

Settlements are still possible at any time

Once the divorce lawyers feel they have a complete picture of the information they need to investigate the case and have developed the legal arguments that will emerge from the facts gathered, they can move on to the negotiation phase. This can start with a few simple phone calls and letters, but a formal settlement conference is usually required to reach an agreement on the terms of the divorce. Most of the time, this comparison conference is carried out with a neutral evaluating mediator.

In this form of mediation, the mediator listens to the evidence and arguments from both sides and then recommends an agreement based on what the mediator expects at the negotiation. The aim is to reach an agreement on the likely outcome while avoiding the high cost of actually performing an experiment. The settlement conference can last all day with the mediator going back and forth between the parties, taking turns expressing their views on how to resolve the case and passing offers from one side to the other.

If the case cannot be resolved at the settlement conference, the final process preparations begin. This includes calling up witnesses, preparing the questions that will be asked, organizing the court exhibitions, drafting a legal memorandum for the court, drafting proposed orders, etc.

What Happens in a Washington Divorce Litigation?

A divorce litigation can take anywhere from a day to weeks, depending on the complexity of the issues and the number of witnesses required. Sometimes some questions have been agreed upon before the trial and only some other questions are reserved for the court. Once the court has heard all the evidence and arguments from both sides, it will give an oral decision on any questions that have been put to it for decision. It is then up to the attorneys to translate this oral decision into a series of final decisions for the court to rule on. If the attorneys cannot agree on exactly what the court intended on a particular point, they may have to return to court for additional guidance.

As you can see, litigation can be a long and complex endeavor. In King County, it typically takes just under a year to go from initial filing to trial. Most disputes, however, are resolved prior to trial, often not until the final month or two before the trial date, as all of the work must be done in preparation for the settlement talks.

Seattle Divorce Services lawyers are always there to help

For more information on the litigation option, please visit our family law and divorce lawyers page. For information about your different divorce proceedings, see Your Divorce Options. Remember, our divorce lawyers are available at every stage of the divorce – even if you are unsure whether you want to file an application. Make an appointment and we can help you understand your options.

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