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Do You Have to Go to Court for a Divorce?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on September 06, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Divorce is one of the hardest legal events anyone will ever face. When you divorce, you face losses that are not just emotional, but financial and legal as well. This blog series will help answer some basic questions you might have about divorce.

Just like your marriage, a divorce is an official legal proceeding, necessitating some filing of documents with a court. But does that mean you need to appear before a judge? And will there be a trial, or witnesses, or evidence?

All relationships are unique, so your divorce will be unique to your circumstances. But here are some factors that may decide whether you need to go to court to get a divorce.

Contested Issues

Courts are used to resolve legal disputes, and if you and your soon-to-be ex disagree on central issues in your divorce, you're more likely to need a court to sort them out. Depending on your marriage, you could have shared children, extensive real estate ownership, or a spouse that hasn't working in quite a while. So if you and your spouse can't agree on child custody and support, division of marital property, or alimony and spousal support, you may need to hash these arguments out in front of a judge.

In that case, you'll probably have to go to court for your divorce and you may need to bring some evidence and witnesses with you. Divorce proceedings can get especially contentious, so it's important to know that you have options.

Alternative Divorce Resolution

On the other hand, if you and your spouse can agree on the basic terms of the divorce, you could avoid court appearances. Most courts will sign off on a divorce agreement submitted by the parties so long as the terms are reasonable. So while you may need to submit documents to the court, the agreement could save you time and money.

Even if you can't agree to terms with your spouse, you could use an alternative means of dispute resolution, choosing mediation over court proceedings. Choosing an impartial mediator to decide contested divorce issues can save on court costs and filing fees.

The last thing you want to do is avoid divorce court by ignoring divorce filings. If you've been served with divorce papers, or are thinking of filing your own, consult with an experienced divorce attorney first.

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