Understanding Legal Separation and Divorce in DC
I am asked often by potential clients whether they should file in the court immediately rather than try to settle separation and divorce issues out of court. In other words:
TO FILE OR NOT TO FILE: THAT IS THE QUESTION!
It is always best if you can reach a settlement related to the issues arising out of your marriage.
Filing a court case before you have attempted to settle the issues out of court is more expensive, time-consuming, and a more emotionally difficult path to reaching a resolution.
If you have children that you will be co-parenting with your spouse after your separation or divorce is completed, it is much better to attempt to reach a Separation and Property Settlement Agreement (Marital Settlement Agreement) that includes a Parenting Plan and Custody Schedule. Once your attorneys are no longer helping you each step of the way you still need to try to work with your spouse in a calm way to co-parent your children.
It is a usually a better outcome to try to reach an amicable resolution since you will be transitioning your children between your homes, seeing each other at events such as sports games, school plays and concerts, graduations, and the like. It is best for your children not to witness constant conflict between you. It is also better for both of you.
If you do not have children you still want to be able to move on with the least stress possible.
Sometimes court is unavoidable but there are many ways to attempt to resolve the issues between you first without the court’s help. It is always best to have the advice of a DC Divorce lawyer as you navigate this process. It can be overwhelming and it is best to have advice so are aware of your rights and do not waive rights simply because you do not know what you are entitled to. The cost of this legal advice is invaluable.
Once you have advice you and your spouse can work together if you are able and then have an Agreement drafted by a divorce lawyer, you can attend mediation (usually it is best to have a family law/divorce attorney advise you through mediation or you can each be represented by your own lawyer and the two attorneys will attempt to negotiate a resolution. Then, a Separation Agreement/Marital Settlement Agreement will be drafted and you will have a written contract to settle your differences.
Settling out-of-court gives you both the ability to have major input into the outcome of your own family situation. Once you are in the court system you are subject to numerous court hearings and if you are unable to arrive at a resolution a Judge will decide for you.
If you are able to reach a settlement, if you choose to then proceed to a divorce, you can do so in a very easy manner through an Uncontested Divorce. This is a quick and easy process but you can only do so if you have settled all of the property, support, and custody issues.
Before deciding the best method to reach a resolution it is best to consult with a family lawyer/divorce lawyer to talk through your situation. Then you will have the legal advice you need to adequately determine how to move forward.