Negotiate or Litigate - Which path is right for you?
You can choose between two different divorce paths:
#1. Non-Litigated (Negotiated)
#2. Litigated (Court/Trial)
I help you find your right way out.
Understand your Georgia divorce legal process options -
Divorce Options #1 – A Non-Litigated Divorce (Negotiated)
All divorce issues can be resolved without having to go to court – usually through attorney negotiation.
This can be done through an informal process that begins with each spouse’s attorney requesting, exchanging and reviewing information. For example, financial information like bank statements, tax returns and lists of assets and debts.
Successful negotiation requires trust.
With my accounting background, I am able carefully review and verify all requested financial information. Some spouses try to hide money and income so I always keep a sharp on the financial data.
Settlement is always easier when both spouses try to be fair and truthful. My scrutinizing the financials tends to keep everyone honest.
After this informal discovery process is complete, settlement proposals between the attorneys go back and forth (and back and forth) until a final agreement is reached.
If you and your spouse need assistance agreeing on certain issues, a mediation can be scheduled. Most often, a mediator can help you and your spouse come to an agreement.
Sometimes outside experts are needed for a settlement. If business interests are involved a valuation expert may be needed. Or maybe a mental health professional if parents would like help deciding what’s best for their children in a divorce.
After a settlement agreement resolving all issues is reached, it will be submitted to the court for approval and for a grant of divorce.
Most divorce cases don’t need to be litigated.
Some with few assets and no children don’t even need lawyers. And don’t worry, if this non-litigation process is not working for you, you can always shift gears and file the court papers to begin litigation.
A negotiated divorce is preferred. The financial and emotional cost to you, your spouse and your children will be much lower.
And you and your spouse will be deciding what the outcome of your divorce looks like, not a judge or jury.
Divorce Options #2 – A Litigated Divorce (Court)
A Litigated Georgia divorce case officially begins with one spouse serving the other spouse with a Divorce Complaint. This sets the divorce in motion. Shortly after litigation begins, the case proceeds through the three Divorce Case Phases discussed below.
Remember, settlement can occur during these phases, eliminating the stress, uncertainty and cost of having a Judge (or jury) decide these issues for you and your spouse. So I will always be looking for, and helping you find settlement opportunities.
Phase 1. Divorce Case Initiation – strategy, database construction, and initial gathering and analyzing of information
Phase 1 sets the tone and determines how your divorce process will unfold.
Here’s some of what happens as your divorce begins:
Prepare initial divorce pleadings (Complaint-Answer) and send to each spouse
Your divorce require a lot of time, effort (yours and mine) and money (yours) – so let’s not waste any. Unlike most divorce lawyers, I am an early technology adopter – having come out of the business world. My extensive use of technology allows me to do more without the bureaucratic need for additional staff.
By creating evidence and financial information databases early in your case, it is easier for us to gather financial information and documents from the outset, rather than creating a last minute mad dash to find your evidence. Technology also mostly eliminated my need for administrative support staff (or junior lawyers) running around attempting to find, organize and re-review important documents and information – everything resides in a secure database, organized to enable in-depth analysis.
But, the most important part of Phase 1 is that you determine what you want life to look like after your divorce – What is worth fighting for? And now can you design a strategy that achieves your specific personal goals and objectives.
It’s also important to set the tone. If you want to walk your daughter down the aisle in 10 years, drama-free, trying to destroy your spouse during the divorce process might not be an effective strategy.
Phase 2. Case Preparation – gathering of formal evidence and additional documents plus settlement negotiations
During the Phase 2, both sides try to collect all the information for settlement discussions and/or trial.
You will spend a lot of time and effort in a process called “Discovery.” Discovery refers to the ability of both parties to get information, primarily financial, from the other side. Discovery includes interrogatories, depositions, and requests for documents.
Interrogatories (written questions) and document requests are the first Discovery tools to be used by both attorneys. Usually there are volumes of financial information and documents collected during the Discovery period.
Next, depositions of each spouse (or possibly expert witnesses, like appraisers and accountants) may follow if additional information is necessary. A deposition consists of taking sworn testimony from you, your spouse, experts and/or other third parties at one of the attorney’s offices. Usually, both clients, both attorneys, and a court reporter are present.
Having all information on the table is essential for the couple to arrive at a fair and reasonable settlement.
It’s this process of Discovery, information gathering, that allows the couple, through their attorneys, to engage in meaningful and productive settlement negotiations.
Phase 2a. Divorce Mediation – formal mediation and additional settlement negotiations
Creating a Safe Space to Negotiate
Divorce Mediation is an important step in the direction of avoiding a court trial and achieving a win-win settlement. The mediation process, helped by a third, neutral party called a mediator, helps you and your spouse to craft the specific terms of your divorce settlement .
Mediator’s sole role is to help you and your spouse identify and resolve issues.
You decide: not a judge or jury.
Mediation can be a safe and effective place to resolve all your disputed issues.
Mediators don’t choose sides – they they don’t determine the outcome of your divorce – they are only there to help you decide things for yourselves. Learn how divorce mediation can help you.
Phase 3. The Trial (The Final Phase) - Includes everything necessary to fight your case in court
If it doesn’t look like your case will settle or if settlement negotiations may proceed better if there’s a scheduled trial – a trial date is requested.
settlement is the best option and that’s why less than 10% of Atlanta divorce cases are resolved via a trial
Preparing for trial is an intense, stressful, time-consuming and expensive process (financially and emotionally).
Witness testimony requires a lot of preparation. If there will be expert testimony, your experts will testify and be prepared prepare for cross-examination of the other side.
All evidence (mostly documents) are copied, cataloged and exhibits prepared.
Research and legal briefs may be necessary.
At the trial, witnesses, documents and records are presented to persuade the judge to rule in your favor on the issues of support, custody, property, or other issues.
When choosing between divorce options – remember – Unlike with a negotiated settlement, the outcome of your divorce is in the hands of a judge and possibly a jury.
While most people think of trial when they think of divorce, a trial is the least likely way that most divorces are resolved. Even the many intense highly-contentious litigated divorce cases settle in Phase 2a (Mediation).
If settlement is not reached before trial, a Judge (or jury) will determine what the outcome of your divorce will be.