Divorce can be one of the most stressful and demanding experiences of your life. Typically, people preparing for the divorce process want it to be over as quickly as possible, and this encourages many people in this position to seek alternative dispute resolution. For example, divorce mediation can offer expedient results in a divorce case and effectively allow the divorcing spouses to get on with their separate lives much faster than litigation. However, mediation does not always work out as intended, and some divorcing spouses are completely unwilling to compromise in any way, demanding a trial.
If divorce litigation is unavoidable for you in Bloomington, IL, it’s essential to know what to expect from the process and what you can do to strengthen your position in divorce proceedings. An experienced Bloomington, IL divorce attorney is an essential asset if you are expecting divorce litigation in the near future. Attempting to navigate this process on your own is unwise and will likely result in a divorce order that does not suit your best interests.
When Is Divorce Litigation Unavoidable?
It is generally in the best interests of every person expecting to divorce to explore alternative dispute resolution before moving to litigation. Mediation, arbitration, and collaborative divorce are the most commonly used forms of alternative dispute resolution in the US and generally offer faster and more agreeable results to any divorce case. However, some divorcing spouses will find that alternative dispute resolution is not an option for one reason or another:
- Alternative dispute resolution requires both spouses to agree to the process. If one spouse is entirely unwilling to compromise and demands to have their day in court, alternative dispute resolution is not possible. However, many spouses who act this way quickly realize that pursuing litigation does not serve their best interests and rarely see the results they expect.
- Mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution may break down if the couple is unwilling to compromise on certain issues. For example, they may both be completely unwilling to budge on their claims to the marital home, and they will need to go to court to leave the decision up to a judge.
- Alternative dispute resolution may not be an option if one spouse has committed a crime or engaged in any type of domestic violence. The offending spouse will likely face criminal prosecution from the state, and this will tie in closely with their divorce case.
- Mediation may not be possible when a couple’s divorce involves very complex financial questions or other matters that require extensive legal review. The couple may simply be unable to determine the best method for dividing certain assets and equitably distributing their shared marital property under Illinois state law, so they must have a judge decide on these issues.
- It’s possible for a divorcing couple to settle some aspects of their divorce in mediation or other alternative dispute resolution before moving to litigation to handle the rest of their divorce-related issues.
These are just a few examples of situations that will likely lead to divorce litigation. If you are expecting to go to court for your divorce, it’s a good idea to understand the basic framework of divorce litigation and what to expect from the process.
Pretrial Motions and Discovery
A divorce case that moves to litigation will mirror other civil cases. The two parties and their respective legal teams may file pretrial motions as they see fit and begin the discovery process. This involves sharing material evidence and documentation pertinent to the divorce case, including financial disclosure. Your Bloomington, IL divorce attorney can help you ensure that your financial disclosure is complete and accurate so there are no issues as your case proceeds through the litigation process.
After discovery concludes, the first courtroom proceedings will begin. The judge may want to hear opening statements from the divorcing spouses, and their attorneys can make statements on their behalf as well. Some divorce cases unfold quickly in court, while others may take months or even longer than a year depending on the unique details of the case. It is also possible for divorce proceedings to take longer if domestic violence or other criminal matters are involved. Criminal proceedings will unfold outside of family court, but the two cases will undoubtedly touch upon one another.
Witness Testimony and Closing Statements
Some divorce cases may require testimony from witnesses, including expert witnesses who can provide detailed professional insights into various aspects of the divorce case. For example, if there is a question concerning the ownership of a particular asset, a financial expert such as a forensic accountant may provide expert witness testimony to explain the nature of the asset in question and help the court determine appropriate steps to take for property division. Once testimony concludes, the divorcing spouses will have the opportunity to make their closing arguments before the judge delivers their ruling.
The Final Divorce Ruling
Perhaps the biggest drawback to divorce litigation is the fact that the final ruling is entirely outside the divorcing spouses’ control. When they mediate their divorce, they retain much more control over the outcome and are generally able to reach a resolution that is more personally suitable to both of them. However, when a divorcing couple litigates, the judge has the final say on every aspect of the divorce, from property division to spousal support and child custody.
The judge may not take personal factors into consideration and base their ruling entirely on state statutes. While this can be disempowering for the divorcing spouses, they will have the option of filing modification petitions in the future to alter their divorce order.
Ultimately, divorce litigation is time-consuming, expensive, and emotionally taxing on everyone involved. While it is typically best to pursue alternative dispute resolution in any divorce case, this isn’t an option for everyone. Regardless of what your unique situation entails and the likelihood of facing litigation for settling your divorce, contacting an experienced Bloomington, IL divorce attorney as soon as possible is one of the best things you can do to preserve your best interests and increase the chances of a favorable and reasonable outcome to your divorce.