How Do I Know if I Should Go to Trial? / by Cassandra Hearn

More and more cases are ending in settlement.  Divorce and child custody cases are no exception, with the overwhelming majority of cases ending in a settlement agreement being reached before the parties are forced to go to a final hearing.  For some parties, deciding if it is worth it to go to trial becomes a difficult choice.  The first and foremost way to decide if trial is appropriate is to listen to your divorce attorney.  He or she has experience with the law and judges, knows what to expect, and knows what are potential outcomes.  That aside, there are other important considerations as to whether going to trial for a divorce or custody matter is a good idea.

First, understand that going to trial will always mean a degree of risk.  When going to a final trial in a family law matter, it means that you are allowing a judge, who is a perfect stranger, to make decisions about your children, your personal life, and your finances.  The judge may make a decision that is great for you, or a decision that will make your life financially and emotionally difficult for years to come.  There is no way to know for sure what a judge will do before the trial. 

Second, a divorce trial can mean a loss of privacy.  Divorce filings, and sometimes even the transcripts, are public record.  This means anyone can look them up and read them.  You need to be prepared for this eventuality if you want to go to trial.

Third, you need to balance the cost of going to trial against the likelihood of obtaining your specific goals.  Trials are expensive, but it may be worth it if your spouse is being unreasonable on an issue that is crucial for you, such as child custody or division of assets.  Keep in mind that cost is not weighed only in dollars and cents.  Trials can be incredibly emotionally taxing, and depending on the evidence that is brought out during the final hearing, the animosity between the parties can increase following the trial. 

Finally, before you can know if you should go to trial, you need to have a firm understanding on how realistic your goals really are.  If your goals are simple and in line with the California law, but your spouse refuses to settle with these realistic requests, a trial my very well be worth it.

Ultimately whether to go to trial is a decision that needs to be made together with an experienced divorce attorney.  We have helped many clients make the right decision for their case.  Call us today at (619) 800-0384 to talk about your case and your strategy.