Divorce, particularly when there are children involved, is usually not simple. Emotions run high and there are many factors that can make it more complicated than you might expect. Sometimes, a divorce can be accomplished on your own or by going through mediation, which is a meeting (or a series of meetings) with your spouse and a neutral third party who will help you compromise. Often, however, a divorce has to go into litigation, which means that it will either settle out of court or, somewhat rarely, go to trial. Here are some of the reasons why a complicated court case can end up being complicated, expensive, and emotionally draining.
Court Cases Often Have One Partner Who Does Not Want a Divorce
In many cases, only one partner in a divorce situation really wants the divorce. This means that there are a lot of hard feelings on the side of the other spouse. The spouse who does not want to get a divorce might try to make the process longer and more complicated in the hopes that the person who does want the divorce will change their mind, agree to go to counseling, or otherwise make a move toward saving the marriage. Sometimes, it turns into a situation of one partner trying to get revenge on the other and drawing out the complicated court case process in the meantime.
Of course, this rarely works, but if one partner is trying to keep the divorce from going through, it could make things much more complicated and, in some cases, less amicable than they would be otherwise. Allowing the process to work as it’s meant to can be frustrating, but rest assured that the divorce will eventually go through.
Court Cases Generally Mean That Mediation and Settlement Attempts Have Failed
By the time a case gets to the point of being litigated, it’s common that mediation hasn’t worked. It could be because the case is complex and involves certain features that make it difficult to come to a compromise. It could also be that both spouses and their attorneys or legal resource groups have tried to settle but it just hasn’t been possible.
When this happens, it means that the case is more complex for some reason. It could be an extenuating circumstance or it could be that one person is purposely making the complicated court case process more difficult. If your case is going to go to trial, it generally means that you and your spouse are unable to see eye-to-eye on some big issues. If you could, then the complicated court case would have been mediated or settled before you got to this point.
A Complicated Court Case Often Involves Children
Children automatically make a complicated court case more complex. In most cases, parents both want to maintain a relationship with their children. Sometimes, both parents can come together and form a parenting plan with little issue. A mediator can help many parents work through their differences to create a plan that will be fair to both parents and also in the best interest of the children.
Sometimes, however, there are big differences in how both parents feel about where the children should be spending time. This is particularly true if one parent wants or needs to live out of state or in an area that is not within a short distance from the marital home. If one parent was the full-time caregiver and wants to keep the children from the other parent (who usually has been working full-time), this can create complex issues. There are also sometimes parenting issues that haven’t been resolved and that cause one parent to accuse the other of being unfit.
In many of these circumstances, an outside neutral party, such as a guardian ad litem (GAL) will get involved. When this happens, he or she will need to meet with both parents and the children and write up reports that will be submitted to the court. This tends to stretch out the amount of time a complicated court case takes and can make it longer.
Some Divorces Have Factors That Increase Complexity
As mentioned previously, there are some factors that can make a complicated court case for divorce. Some of them are:
- High-value assets. If there are large amounts of real estate, an inheritance, large joint accounts, retirement accounts, stocks and bonds, or other high-value assets, this can make a case more complex. This is particularly true if one spouse had the assets prior to becoming married and if there was no prenuptial agreement in place.
- Hidden assets. Sometimes, one spouse accuses the other of having hidden assets. These could range from real estate to offshore accounts. In this situation, there will need to be financial disclosures, and one spouse might try to prove that the other spouse is not disclosing all of his or her assets. This can make a case more complicated and can cause it to take a long time.
- Jointly owned businesses. When both spouses have worked together building a business, that takes some extra skill in negotiating who should get what. This is also true if one spouse came into the marriage with a business and the other spouse joined as another owner once they were married. In this case, there will often be extra paperwork and a longer period of time for the courts to figure what belongs to whom.
- History of domestic violence or drug addiction. Sometimes, one spouse accuses the other of domestic violence. When this happens, there can be a drawn-out custody case. A history of drug use, abuse, or addiction can also cause child custody issues. In some cases, one parent will want to pursue sole custody, which means that the other parent would not have custody or enforced visitation. This is something that your legal resource group can walk you through if it pertains to your case.
In a perfect world, your divorce would be amicable and simple. Sometimes these cases are relatively simple and don’t cause a lot of undue pain outside the issue of dissolving the relationship. In other cases, however, there are many factors at stake that turn it into a complicated court case. Talk to a case manager at National Family Solutions to find out whether your case is one where you can represent yourself and get the best possible outcome for your divorce and custody case.