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What happens we don’t agree on a settlement?

During the divorce process, you have ample opportunity to work with the other side in order to try and reach a resolution of the case. You’ll likely have a settlement conference, and your attorneys have other opportunities to discuss the case and try to reach a resolution. In the vast majority of cases, the parties are able to reach a settlement that’s agreeable, and the case never proceeds to trial.

In a small minority of cases, however, you may not be able to agree on a settlement. There are a number of reasons that this might occur. You might disagree as to whether an asset qualifies as a marital asset. You might disagree as to how to arrange child custody or the specifics of parenting time. The parties might disagree about who gets to keep the marital home or another significant asset.

In any event, you might wonder what happens if you don’t agree on a settlement. In that event, it’s up to the judge to hear the case and make a decision. Unless and until you have your case settled, it’s important to prepare as though your case is going to trial. If you don’t settle your case, it goes to trial.

When your trial date arrives, you’ll head to the courtroom. A trial is a formal proceeding. Your attorney and the other party’s attorney have the chance to tell the judge the basic facts of the case and what they think the outcome should be. Then each side has the chance to call witnesses and present evidence.

For child custody, you need to present evidence that documents what the custody and parenting time arrangement should be and why. This might be your own testimony or the testimony of family and friends. You may have arranged for a psychologist to evaluate one or both parents and the children. Teachers may need to take the witness stand. Both your attorney and the other parent’s attorney will have the chance to ask questions. In addition to proving your side of the case, you’ll need to explain things to the judge like where you plan to live and the distance between the parents so that the court can fashion a practical agreement.

In the case of determining property, you need to present evidence to the court that each piece of property exists. It’s also up to you to prove the value of each item. In the case of any real property that you own, you may need to present an appraiser who can testify to the value of the home. You need to value bank accounts and large assets such as vehicles and boats.

A trial is an adversarial proceeding, but you’ll have your attorney to guide you through the process. If you take the witness stand, your attorney has a chance to ask you questions, and the other side can ask questions too. Even the judge can ask you questions if they need clarification on an issue.

After the trial ends, the judge makes their decision. They issue an order. That becomes your judgment of divorce. If you’re unhappy with the order, you have the opportunity to appeal. If neither party appeals, the case ends except for enforcing the divorce judgment. If you don’t agree on a settlement, you can work with your attorney in order to prepare for trial and present your case in the best possible light.