Your Options for Resolving a Contested Divorce in California
Divorce can be an extremely emotional and challenging process for anyone. Unfortunately, many divorcing spouses in California are not fully prepared for the legal challenges and emotional obstacles their cases present. While the divorce process may seem straightforward, it can involve countless variables based on the unique details of a case and the attitudes of the divorcing spouses.
What Is a Contested Divorce?
Divorce begins once a spouse files a divorce petition. This petition will include their preferred terms for the divorce regarding property division, spousal support, and more. The court then serves divorce papers to the other spouse, and they can respond in two possible ways. If they agree to the other spouse’s terms and sign where required, the divorce is uncontested, and a family court judge will review the petition before signing the divorce into law. If they do not agree to the petitioner’s terms, the divorce is contested, and the couple must resolve their disagreements before their divorce can be finalized.
Despite your best efforts, your divorce could devolve into a bitterly contested legal battle between you and your spouse, each concerned with preserving your own respective needs and interests. A contested divorce is any divorce where the spouses cannot agree to terms regarding property division and other aspects of their case. While litigation can be unavoidable in some divorce cases, you may have more options than you initially realize for finalizing your divorce.
An experienced divorce attorney is an essential asset as you prepare for dissolution proceedings in California. A good attorney can potentially help you avoid a significant amount of litigation, translating to a more streamlined experience with the divorce process. Of course, every case is unique, and no attorney can ever promise a client a specific result for their case, but reliable legal counsel can significantly improve your odds of securing a favorable outcome for your divorce.
Divorce formally begins once a divorce petition is filed, and the court submits the appropriate paperwork to the respondent spouse to provide them the chance to submit an answer. If the divorcing spouses do not immediately agree to the terms included in the initial divorce petition, the divorce qualifies as contested.
Many people imagine emotionally charged exchanges in a courtroom when they think of divorce. However, some divorces must unfold through some litigation, particularly those involving child custody determinations. Divorcing parents cannot settle child custody terms on their own, and a California family court judge has the final say on this aspect of a divorce. In other divorces, the spouse must resolve more than child custody in the courtroom.
Divorce litigation proceeds similarly to a personal injury case or other civil action. Both parties have the right to present evidence and call witnesses, and both must submit complete financial statements to the court for consideration. The judge handling the case has the final say on each aspect of the divorce the couple couldn’t settle on their own.
Many divorcing couples prefer to begin their divorce proceedings through private dispute resolution before moving to litigation. This can allow the spouses to reach more personally agreeable terms than a judge may deliver, and it would also reduce the time they must spend in court. Unfortunately, if one of the spouses refuses to engage in private negotiations, the case must proceed to litigation and will take much longer to conclude.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
It’s possible to settle a divorce privately, similar to any other civil case. However, many California couples choose alternative dispute resolution to resolve their divorces, avoiding much of the stress and expense that the litigation process often entails. The most popular alternative dispute resolution options for contested divorces are collaborative divorce and mediation.
Collaborative divorce requires the divorcing spouses to meet privately with their respective legal representatives to negotiate terms for their divorce. The couple will work through each aspect of their divorce, negotiating terms and ensuring resolutions align with California divorce laws. If the couple has a prenuptial contract in place, collaborative divorce may not be much more than reviewing their contract and implementing their terms into a divorce settlement. If there are issues, the couple cannot negotiate a collaborative divorce. If the couple has children, they will need to take their case to litigation once they have accomplished all they can through collaborative divorce negotiation.
Mediation is similar to collaborative divorce but involves a neutral third-party mediator. This legal professional helps the divorcing couple draft their divorce order. Mediators often host negotiation sessions with each spouse separately and collaborative sessions with both spouses and their attorneys. Like collaborative divorce, the couple would negotiate each item of their divorce and take the remaining issues to court.
When Is Litigation Unavoidable?
It’s generally best for divorcing spouses to avoid as much time in court as possible. Litigation is time-consuming and expensive, and both spouses will face higher legal fees the more time their attorneys spend handling litigation. One major divorce-related issue that cannot be settled privately is custody of the divorcing couple’s children. The California family court system is legally obligated to ensure that any court-approved custody order suits the child’s best interests.
It’s relatively common for divorcing spouses to settle everything but child custody through private negotiations. The resolutions they draft through collaborative divorce or mediation are then reviewed by a judge to ensure the terms align with applicable laws. The judge will then determine custody based on the unique details of the case and their interpretation of what would best suit the child’s long-term interests.
Experienced CA Divorce Lawyers, Bickford Blado & Botros
Your California divorce attorney can help you take full advantage of alternative dispute resolution for your contested divorce. They can guide you through alternative dispute resolution as far as possible before helping you proceed with divorce litigation. Every contested divorce is unique, and every divorcing spouse will face different challenges and opportunities in their divorce proceedings. The attorneys at Bickford Blado & Botros have years of experience in divorce representation and can provide the guidance you need in this challenging situation. Contact us today to schedule your consultation with an experienced divorce attorney.
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