Final Negotiations—Frequently Asked Questions

Unsettled matters must now be settled, before the Judge can sign the divorce judgment.

There are three basic ways to resolve a divorce case. First, the parties and attorneys may reach an agreement through negotiations resolving all issues in the divorce. Second, the court or the parties' attorneys may refer the matter for mediation, usually with a private attorney who also specializes in divorce. Third, if negotiations or mediation are unsuccessful, the case may go to a settlement conference or trial before the Judge. The vast majority of divorce cases set for trial do not actually go to trial. Often on the date set for trial the Judge will have several other cases set at the same time, and will expect the parties and attorneys to use this trial date as an opportunity for further negotiations, often with the Judge's assistance.

These negotiations often involve the Judge and the attorneys discussing the unresolved issues in the case with the attorneys alone, and telling the attorneys how he/she would probably rule if the case actually goes to a full trial. This "mini-trial" situation is used extensively in Kent County, and allows each party to have his/her feelings and positions on issues presented to the Judge through his or her lawyer. Obviously, such "mini trials" save time, delays in finalization, money and the emotional war and tear of a courtroom trial. This is not to say that divorce cases are not or should not be tried in a courtroom situation. However, for the majority of divorces, mediation, negotiations, or a combination of negotiations and input from the Judge are the typical means to finalize the matter.

Several observations about finalization should be made. First, while many parties can become almost desperate to “get it over with,” one should be careful if giving up significant rights. Second, if you know you are going to the courthouse for a settlement conference or trial, you should understand the issues yet to be resolved before that court appearance date. This understanding is necessary because you may need to make a number of immediate decisions at the courthouse regarding those issues. Third, go to the courthouse with an open mind, being particularly willing to listen to your attorney's information and advice.

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