Should I Let the Judge Decide?

Judges are elected or appointed officials serving the citizens of our communities. The majority of our judges are intelligent, empathic, possess a vast knowledge of the law and are experienced and wise. However, judges are also human and thus not immune from error or misjudgment. Putting your fate and your children’s fate in the hands of someone you’ve never met can be risky. Your family division judge will only be reviewing a snapshot of your life. In addition, evidentiary restrictions may prohibit you from telling your entire story at trial.

Trial is also costly, time consuming and emotionally draining. Most courts are not able to conduct a trial over a consecutive period as their dockets are busy with other matters. Accordingly, you might have trial for a half day one month, and then two full days the next week or even the next month. And the end of trial does not mean the end of the case.

Once trial is concluded, your attorneys may be required to submit findings of fact and conclusions of law to the court. This is essentially each side’s requested award from the judge but supported by the record and evidence submitted at trial. The judge then has to review the record, the parties’ proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law as well as his or her notes and then render an opinion. This, of course, requires time which means more waiting. Even the final decision is not necessarily the end of the case.

Once an opinion and final order is issued by the court, an unhappy spouse has the right to appeal the trial judge’s decision. This, of course, requires time and money which again means more waiting.

A trial also involves testimony which can be exhausting physically and emotionally. Testifying parties pitted against each other can further sever the divide. The result may make co-parenting on a healthy level almost impossible. This is not in the best interest of the minor children who have no choice in the process.

Sometimes a divorcing spouse has no choice but to proceed to trial when his or her spouse is behaving unreasonably. However, if you have a choice to settle through mediation or otherwise, that is almost always a better alternative. With settlement you make your own decision and reach a compromise that you can live with. Usually both parties are a little unhappy because each feels that he or she gave more than desired. Even with such compromises, settlement is desirable because money is saved on trial costs, there is less time spent waiting, and the emotional strain a trial can create is lessened. Most importantly, the decision in a settlement is made by the couple getting divorced and not by a third party who does not know the parties or the family.

About the Author:

Lynn Sirich is a Member in Dickinson Wright’s Troy office. With over 26 years of experience in all areas of family and domestic relations law, Ms. Sirich skillfully guides her clients through this legal process, always mindful of the fact that she is assisting clients through an often emotional and traumatic period of their lives with more than just their immediate divorce and child custody issues, as the business of divorce incorporates many different legal specialties. She can be reached at 248-205-3224 or at