Is it Worth Contesting Your Divorce? Weighing the Pros and Cons

is it worth contesting your divorce

Is it Worth Contesting Your Divorce? Weighing the Pros and Cons

Deciding whether or not to contest your divorce is an incredibly difficult choice with no clear right or wrong answers.
When relationships built with care and commitment suddenly unravel, wisdom can be in short supply.
In many cases, contesting the divorce becomes a symbolic final stand — a way to fight for the relationship, push for better terms or avoid quietly giving up after so much investment. It’s natural to want to “go down swinging.”
Yet, while gritting your teeth and waging a legal battle may feel justified or even clarifying initially, the cold reality is that court conflict rarely fixes broken bonds long-term. And the financial, emotional and reputational costs often exact a high toll for at best uncertain benefits.
Before deciding to contest the divorce, carefully consider the potential consequences – financially, emotionally, and for family relationships. Let’s responsibly discuss pros, cons, alternatives, and set realistic expectations before committing to a court battle.

Mediation Requirements Before a Contested Florida Divorce Trial

Before a judge hears a contested divorce trial in Florida, the spouses must demonstrate that they attempted to resolve their issues independently. Florida statutes force divorcing spouses into mediation to resolve disagreements with the help of a neutral third-party mediator.
At this stage, having experienced legal representation can pay off when settlement proposals are on the table, and effective negotiation becomes necessary.
When little or no progress occurs after the mandatory mediation session, the case proceeds to trial before a family law judge. At a contested divorce trial, the spouses each present evidence, call witnesses, and make arguments to support their positions.
The judge later decides all unresolved issues in the final divorce decree. Considering the cost and unpredictability of letting a judge decide your fate, it still benefits couples to negotiate reasonably during mediation. But for some couples, a trial becomes unavoidable due to the extent of their disputes.

What Issues Do Florida Divorce Attorneys Contest?

Every divorce differs in the specific matters that drive parties to contest and move their cases to trial. However, our divorce attorneys have found that the most commonly contested issues fit into three categories:

Finances and Property Division

Disputes over asset division and complex financial issues often lead to the reasons for taking a divorce case to trial. With finances intertwined after years of marriage, unraveling them prompts heated disputes over real estate, stock portfolios, business ownership, retirement accounts, luxury items, and personal property. Spouses contest finances when they disagree over asset valuations or believe the proposals are inequitable.

Child Custody and Visitation Arrangements

When parents deeply dispute the specifics of a parenting plan and schedule, contested trials frequently follow. Couples disagree over custody arrangements like sole vs. shared, the precise program of overnight stays, holiday and school break visits, and parent decision-making authority. Resolving child custody disputes requires skillful legal advocacy in court.

Alimony Determinations

Spousal support is another realm of typical disagreement, especially in higher-income divorces. Arguments arise over the amount and duration of alimony payments. One spouse fights to extend support as long as possible, while the other wants minimal responsibility or none at all. The complex formulas underlying alimony awards lead to contested hearings.
In reality, most contested divorce trials address some combination of disputed finances, child-related issues, and spousal support. Yet other problems like domestic violence, or temporary support battles could prompt litigation as well. Understanding the big categories provides context for why settlement deals fall apart and why couples end up in courtrooms.

The Potential Benefits of Contesting Your Divorce in Florida

Given the above, why would someone opt for a lengthy courtroom fight over their divorce rather than settle? In certain situations, contesting the case holds advantages that could outweigh the negatives. Consider these top benefits of taking your divorce case to trial.

Possibility of a More Favorable Outcome

First and foremost, the judge’s rulings could turn out better than you expect. Supporting your positions with evidence and legal advocacy sometimes pays off. When your spouse’s demands are extreme, letting a judge decide may work in your favor instead of accepting a subpar settlement deal in mediation.

Lack of Agreement on Significant Issues

Settlement deals often fail when facing disputes over non-negotiable issues like expensive assets or child custody arrangements. If no room for compromise exists, you’ll at least gain a binding legal decision by trying your case in court.

Avoidance of Long-term Financial Loss

Depending on case circumstances, immediately settling your divorce could require significant financial sacrifices that put you at a disadvantage in the long run. Contesting and seeking court intervention could lead to asset awards that convey noteworthy legal rights. For instance, fighting for designated retirement funds as your separate property may be worth fighting for instead of settling.
Every case differs on the realistic benefits available through contesting a divorce. Experienced legal insight assists in weighing potential upsides against downsides. However, for a minority of couples, contested litigation proves unavoidable, and a trial becomes inevitable.

The Costs and Drawbacks of a Contested Divorce

Despite some advantages in limited situations, pursuing a contested divorce also comes with numerous tangible and intangible costs. Recognizing the many drawbacks of litigation helps you make informed decisions when considering settlement deals.

Time-consuming and Costly

Contested divorce litigation drags out far longer than uncontested cases. Contested cases often take 12-18 months to reach trial. Costs for legal fees and expenses also skyrocket due to extensive trial preparation, discovery disputes, and court motions practice. Thus, contested divorces regularly cost $20,000 to $30,000 more than uncontested separations.

Stress and Emotional Toll

Frankly, contested divorce lawsuits rank among life’s most stressful endeavors. The legal conflicts and uncertainty over months inflict heavy mental and emotional drains. The stress worsens for couples with children while little ones undergo related turmoil. Managing these health impacts also demands resilience and support systems.

Risk of Less Favorable Court Rulings

While hoping for the best at trial, receiving disappointing outcomes instead is a reality. Judges may compromise or issue unexpected decisions that fail to achieve your goals. After sinking extensive resources into court fights, contrary rulings often devastate the losing party.

Damage to Future Co-parenting Relationships

Finally, pursuing cutthroat litigation tactics sometimes inflicts lasting damage on co-parents who must collaborate after the divorce. Starting on an adversarial footing post-trial may undermine practical cooperation over child-raising duties and other family plan matters.
With so much weighing in the balance, determining the wisest path requires trusted counsel and answering hard personal questions. Mindlessly pursuing courtroom success fails to account for the range of consequences.

Family Divorce Lawyer Tips for Making Contested Divorce Decisions

As experienced family law attorneys assisting clients with painful divorces for years, we offer these insights when weighing whether or not to contest your split in court:

  • Pick battles carefully. If compromise exists on certain disputes, seek it first. Only dig heels in over truly non-negotiable dealbreakers. We must discern these wisely from temporary reactions.
  • Gather all relevant facts and objectively apply the law to forecast how a judge realistically may rule on contested issues. Speculation fails us; evidence-based expectations guide.
  • Brace yourself – contested divorces mean court calendars stretch cases out for far longer. Disruption drags on. Bills stack higher. Make sure you can go the distance if choosing this marathon course.
  • And above all, keep your children’s well-being in sharp focus when weighing fighting over money/assets versus preserved family ties. Kids carry these formative years for life. Temporary wins exact long-term costs on their stability. We must buffer their hearts first.

Deciding whether or not to dig in for a contested divorce pits many complex practical and emotional factors against each other during an intensely vulnerable time. But there are no universally right answers – just responsible choices made with informed acceptance of trade-offs between valid personal priorities that often feel at odds presently.

To discuss your unique situation more deeply or schedule a consultation about options related to divorce or separation, don’t hesitate to reach out. We offer free consultations and customized legal representation for individuals and families looking to thoughtfully navigate this challenging transition.

Author Bio

Stephanie Vollrath is an Owner and Partner of Vollrath Law, a Florida estate planning law firm she founded in 2013. With more than seven years of experience in investments and financial advising and 13 years practicing law in Florida, she represented clients in a wide range of estate planning cases. Her practice areas include wills, trusts, guardianship, probate, and other estate planning matters.

Stephanie received her Juris Doctor from the Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law and is a member of the Florida Bar and the Seminole County Bar Association.

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