Do I have to go to court?
Is court my only option?
Everybody knows that divorce and custody are legal processes that are outlined by our state statutes and laws. A lot of people will have preconceived notions that they just – they know they’re going to have to go into that courtroom, and they’re going to be on the stand. And that can kind of give them some anxiety.
But the reality is, that you don’t have to go to court. About 90% of cases in North Carolina will settle outside of the courtroom. And there are some reasons why want to try to do this if you can.
First, court can be very time consuming. You may schedule your child custody hearing today, but your first available court date doesn’t pop up until four to six months from now. So then you show up at your court date four to six months from now, and the judge is still hearing matters from previously in the week that he hasn’t been able to finish. Or maybe you’re just low down on the list, and there’s enough things in front of you to bump you from the calendar that day. Or you could even be in the situation where the other attorney for the other parent, asks for a continuance.
There’s an unlimited number of circumstances that can result in you actually not getting reached on your originally scheduled court date. And then you’re just pushing that decision back even further. That can be really troublesome if you’re living in that period of limbo where you really need that judge to make a decision, and you don’t have a clear defined schedule. And things have been very tense and very bad between you and the other parent. And you’re looking at another couple of months before you’re able to reach a decision.
Another reason you want to try to avoid court if you can, is that it can be very expensive. When you start litigating your custody issues, you can expect your legal fees to skyrocket from where they are now–once you get into the litigation process where your attorney is doing trial prep, they’re taking depositions, doing discovery and all of the things that are necessary to prepare for your trial.
Another reason why court may not be the best option, is because there’s a lot of uncertainty with court. The judges are given a lot of discretion. They’re going to listen to your testimony and the testimony of the other parent. They’re going to hear the witness testimony. And you really never know whose testimony they are going to find to be the most credible. You have no idea while they’re sitting on the bench who they’re believing, who they’re not believing, and which of the testimonies between you and the other parent is going to be the most compelling. You’re putting everything in your judge’s hands and hoping for the best, to some degree.
As I’ve mentioned, it can be very time consuming, and also very costly. For those reasons, we suggest if possible, it’s best to go ahead and reach some sort of an agreement outside of court.