Divorce can present a dilemma for many people during a contentious breakup. Should they put aside their negative feelings about their spouse and try to work with them to reach a divorce agreement that benefits both parties, or is at least acceptable?

While most divorcing spouses understand that cooperating will lead to a quicker and possibly less painful process, sometimes it’s not that easy. For some, going before a judge is the only reasonable way they can receive their fair share of marital assets or an agreeable child custody arrangement.

Consider these four factors

When debating whether you should commit to negotiation despite a challenging relationship with a spouse, or leaving the decisions up to a judge, consider the following issues:

  • Time commitments: A trial can take more than a year, which is months longer than the typical settlement. Your schedule is largely dictated by the court’s calendar, which could mean months of waiting. You will also spend more time with your attorney preparing for court.
  • Expenses: The longer the process takes, the more you will pay in attorney and court fees and related expenses. These costs can multiply quickly in a trial setting and reach the mid to upper five-digit range, while reaching a settlement is typically much lower.
  • Stress level: A long and contentious process can take a toll on your emotional health, as well as your children and others close to you. While it can affect every aspect of your personal and professional life, it can also set a negative tone for your future relationship with your spouse, including co-parenting.
  • Best outcome: Taking your spouse to court may be the best option when they refuse to negotiate in good faith and seek a greater share of marital assets or more time with children. An experienced family law attorney can help determine whether this route is likely to lead to a better result.

Put reason ahead of emotion

While spouses may have legitimate reasons for wanting to have their “day in court,” it’s typically not a good reason to go to trial. Judges want to hear rational law-based arguments on why you deserve a larger share of assets or more time with your kids. Litigation can be the best option when negotiation fails but remember you will be putting the final decision in the hands of a judge.