When a divorce is litigated, it goes through divorce court, and spouses typically attend multiple hearings to present their arguments to the judge. This process can worsen the stress and cost of the divorce process, and divorce is more commonly resolved outside of court. However, there are some situations where litigation is needed. If you are unsure what is right for your case, a St. Charles divorce attorney can help you.

Divorces outside of court may be resolved through divorce mediation, arbitration, or collaborative divorce. It’s important to understand if litigation may be the ideal option for your unique situation and the pros and cons of these options. No divorce is easy, but by choosing the right method, you can better protect your family and your rights.

Contested Divorces in and out of Court

Spouses can get an uncontested divorce when they agree on the main points in a separation agreement. However, when they can’t agree on or easily negotiate these issues, it is considered a contested divorce. A contested divorce also occurs when spouses do not even agree that they should be getting a divorce.

A contested divorce does not always have to go through litigation, however. Spouses can use alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods, such as collaborative divorce or arbitration, which allow more private and less contentious discussions while still providing each spouse with legal representation. This also enables them to avoid costly and stressful court litigation.

However, there are some situations where it is necessary for a contested divorce to proceed to a divorce trial. In this type of contested divorce, the judge makes the final judgment on the terms of the divorce. It’s important to understand when litigation is or is not the right option for your divorce.

Why Might Litigation Be the Right Choice?

Sometimes, litigation is necessary because ADR methods have failed, while other times, litigation is needed to protect the rights of one or both spouses. Some situations where it may be in one or both spouse’s interests to take the divorce case to court include:

  1. Spouses have attempted alternate methods to negotiate a separation agreement but cannot resolve the divorce.
  2. Spouses refuse to cooperate during negotiations or refuse to speak.
  3. One spouse refuses to agree to any compromises or is purposefully dragging out the process of negotiation.
  4. One spouse has disproportionate power over the other spouse, such as having significantly more assets or, in more serious cases, having been emotionally or financially abusive.
  5. One spouse is a danger to the other spouse and their children due to domestic violence and abuse.

Litigation can provide a spouse with court protection if they are in danger. Working with an attorney can help you determine what form of divorce is right for your situation and helps you further protect your rights. An attorney can help you decide the steps you need to take to protect yourself and your children and present your case to the court.

Pros and Cons of Divorce Litigation

Divorce litigation can have several disadvantages. These include:

  • It may take up to a year or even longer to resolve.
  • It is more expensive, including higher attorney fees, court costs, and other costs.
  • It requires attending multiple court dates, which are made according to the schedule and availability of the court.
  • The process is more stressful for both parties and their families.
  • The divorce and things discussed are part of the public record.
  • The judge has the final say in the divorce judgment.

These disadvantages are why contentious litigation is less common. However, litigation also enables you to:

  • Challenge unfair claims by your spouse for support
  • Have property divided by Missouri’s equitable distribution laws
  • Challenge unfair visitation or custody right requests

It is not easy to make the decision to handle your divorce through court. An attorney can help you determine if your divorce is better handled in court, partially in court, or through ADR.


Q: Do You Have to Appear in Court for a Divorce in Missouri?

A: You may have to appear in court for a divorce in Missouri, depending on your method of divorce. Few couples have a litigated divorce, but it is sometimes necessary. In litigated divorces, spouses must attend multiple court hearings.

In a divorce that is not handled by the court, couples may only need to attend the hearing to submit their final separation agreement. Only if the agreement is found unfair or invalid will the court reject it, and then spouses will have to return with a new agreement.

Q: What Happens at a Divorce Trial in Missouri?

A: At divorce trial in Missouri, whichever party filed the divorce, or the petitioner, will present their side of the case first. This is typically their requests for a divorce judgment and evidence to support those requests. Then, the other spouse, the respondent, will present their case in a similar manner. Based on this information, the family law judge will decide the outcome of the divorce, including property division, child custody, and other aspects. This process is easier with an attorney.

Q: Why Would You Choose Litigation Over Mediation?

A: A spouse or a couple may choose litigation rather than mediation for many reasons, including being unable to cooperate or compromise on any aspect of their divorce. Other reasons may include:

• One spouse and/or their children are in danger from the other spouse, and litigation protects them and their rights more effectively.
• One spouse has significant bargaining power over the other due to significant asset differences, financial abuse, or emotional abuse, and this would result in unfair mediation.
• Property can be divided by equitable distribution laws.

Q: Is Mediation Typically More Expensive than Litigation?

A: No, mediation is not typically more expensive than litigation. Litigation involves more court costs and higher attorney fees, and it takes much longer, increasing all these costs. Mediation usually resolves a divorce more quickly and with fewer costs to spouses.

Attorney fees are usually lower for mediation services than other forms of resolution, and they’re much lower than litigation services.

Determining the Right Option for Your Family

A skilled divorce attorney can review your case and help you make informed decisions about the case that will significantly affect your future. Contact Stange Law Firm today to learn how we can help you navigate your divorce.