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Should Your Divorce Go to Trial

Clarkston Legal Feb. 26, 2012

Yesterday, I was sure that I was going to spend the entire day in a divorce trial; my first in a quarter century of practice. Didn’t happen.

Why? Because trial in divorce rarely makes sense. This case, in Genesee County, had it all: a GAL for the minor children; a joint bankruptcy in the middle of the proceedings; two [failed] mediation sessions; motions from each side, jousting for the entry of temporary support and parenting orders.

The case was positioned for trial because both sides held onto rigid positions on many of the issues important in any divorce proceeding: custody, parenting time, child support, alimony and debt apportionment. My law clerk, a third year student at Wayne State, prepared an excellent trial brief; she had compiled a trial notebook, and we were prepared and ready to go.

As the case was the oldest on Judge Kay Behm’s docket [18-months], I knew it was going to resolve one way or another.

The case did resolve, after 8-hours in the courtroom, because each of the parents made common-sense, strategic compromises. In the end, the parents each looked past their own personal wounds, and their self-centered agendas, and took into account the best interests of their minor children.

Don’t get me wrong, I would rather conduct a trial than spend the entire day as I did yesterday, painstakingly going over, discussing, negotiating, and resolving every aspect of a failed marriage and the flotsam that goes along with it. But as a divorce lawyer, I keep the best interests of the client in mind. Trial almost never makes sense.

So it may be that when I finally retire, I will have never conducted a divorce trial. Actually, that is a client-service goal of mine.