Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C.
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Weighing the Cost of Litigation in Divorce

When issues arise in a divorce that are in dispute, parties oftentimes are concerned with being right or getting justice. The divorce action itself, aside from the peripheral issues of custody if there are children, involves money. The court does not assess who is right and who is wrong in wanting to get a divorce. The court generally does not care why someone is getting divorced. The issues before the court are what financial assets does the court need to divide and what are the incomes of the parties with the disparity in income between the parties as the biggest driving factor in the outcome of a divorce. When parties have issues that are in dispute, they often either involve a dispute over the value of an asset or the percentage that should be awarded in the divorce. In these instances, a party who is more interested in being right forgets to weigh the cost of proving they are right. For example, if two parties disagree on the buyout figure for a house and their dispute is a matter of difference of $ 20,000, the parties need to step back and weigh the cost of getting the house appraised, bringing an appraiser to testify in court, preparation time for court, time at a court hearing and any court costs and their expected percentage of the asset. When this analysis is done, oftentimes, the party will realize they could spend more in litigation than the amount they hope to gain in the dispute. Disputes over financial assets are best settled by compromise. No one is ever going to be right and since courts are not liberal in awarding attorney fees, even if a party's position prevails, the party will still be out of pocket to get to that position. At a minimum, a party must consider at all times the cost of litigation. For each and every dispute, it is important to weigh these factors: the cost to bring the claim, the anticipated cost in legal fees for discovery, preparation and attendance at trial, the amount of time it will take to have the issue determined, the cost of any expert witnesses, the amount of time and money lost from work in order to prepare for court and attend a trial, the emotional and psychological toll both on the party and any witnesses, the importance of preserving the relationship if any with the other party and affect on any common relations. Sometimes, a party may have to give up pursuing being right for the art of compromise because it makes more sense financially and psychologically. Understanding this is something a party needs to do anytime they are involved in litigation. 

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