What happens if spouses cannot agree on a divorce settlement?

If you and your spouse have been unable to reach an agreement on a divorce settlement, you—with the help of your attorneys or mediators if you are using them—may decide to submit the areas under dispute before a judge at a pretrial conference. This sort of conference normally takes place in the judge's chambers.

If you are using attorneys and the divorce is not mutual or you cannot reach an agreement in terms of child custody, estate distribution, and alimony, then you will probably have two different attorneys representing your individual concerns and interests. These attorneys will put forward your two different positions to the judge at the pretrial conference, and the judge will make recommendations for a just settlement. These recommendations do not bind the parties but help to determine what will happen at the trial. They are also often an impetus to come to an agreement before the trial date.

Even if a pretrial conference cannot bring an early settlement, a trial date will be set, which could take several months. In the period leading up to the trial, your attorney will be undertaking certain tasks as part of the trial preparation. This could include the interviewing of useful witnesses, taking depositions, studying reports from experts, and reviewing any facts submitted by your ex-spouse.

Obviously, if there is a large estate to consider, a trial may be the only way to ensure a fair distribution of the wealth. You can expect to pay a lot of money to go through the trial stage. In the end, you will have no choice but to accept the decision made by the judge, as no jury is involved in divorce proceedings.

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