In most family law matters, cases are resolved through the court’s process, which involves filing a complaint for divorce, serving the other side, the other side responds, there may be temporary orders put into place, your case may be ordered to mediation, the parties will exchange relevant documents and discuss settlement. If your case is remains unresolved, your case will be decided by a judge, typically 8-12 months after the complaint is filed. The state statutes set up a framework for family law matters, and each county has its own process for implementing specific processes to resolve your case. Many people are represented by attorneys, but some represent themselves in these matters.
In some situations, I have been successful in resolving cases in a very cost effective way by putting together a proposal and working with the opposing attorney (or the opposing party if unrepresented) to reach a final agreement, which is then drafted into a final judgment which spells out all of your agreements without the expense of needing to hire any other professionals such as a mediator.
In other cases, parties are unable to reach agreements and they need to have a judge make some decisions. This can be because one party won’t negotiate in good faith, there are safety issues that require court intervention, or there are novel legal issues that make it challenging to reach an agreement. However, most cases settle without the need for a trial in front of a judge.
Whether your case resolves quickly or at trial, I find that most people want the expertise that a skilled family law attorney provides. An attorney can provide you with information about what might happen at trial so you can decide whether you want to accept a settlement proposal or take the matter before a judge.
Even if you are resolving your case through mediation, having your own attorney fills a vital role. Your attorney can assist you in drafting the documents and filing them with the courts. Your attorney can help you prepare for mediation and assess whether the proposal you’ve discussed at mediation is a reasonable settlement in your situation.