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Family Law Attorney Stacy Sabatini, Esq.

News and insights about divorce and family law in New York.

Are Jury Trials Disappearing?


Most people are familiar with divorces that make the news when they head to trial. They can take months or even years to resolve, and be very costly. Divorces that don’t make the news can be just as difficult.

But jury trials for divorces—as well as other civil cases—are actually decreasing in favor of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), including mediation. Parties who choose mediation frequently settle without the need for a trial, and walk away with a more favorable outcome.

A recent study by social scientists Shari Diamond and Jessica Salerno, published in the Louisiana Law Review, examines the sharp decline in overall cases that involve a jury trial. Although 80% of civil attorneys interviewed believe that a jury trial is worth the money it costs. Mediation and other ADR decisions are more client-driven because of the cost and the uncertainty.

The Risks Of Trial

As many attorneys will attest, taking a case all the way to trial can lead to results that are, at best, unpredictable. In a divorce, that could mean a property division different that expected. Just because the assets are “divided fairly” doesn’t mean they are “equally” divided.

If the parties differ on child custody and can’t come to an amicable agreement, the court will also make that decision on the parties’ behalf. While both parents can ask for primary custody, the judge will decide based on the best interests of the child.

New York allows requests for a jury trial in contested divorces when the parties cannot agree on everything. When there are grounds for divorce, such as abandonment, adultery, imprisonment, or other grounds under New York law, then a jury trial can be convened—but only to decide the grounds, to rule on a separation, or to grant a final decree of divorce.

And if one party disagrees with the court decision, they have the right to appeal. This can extend the time it takes to complete a divorce by months, or even more than a year.

Why Mediation Is A More Attractive Option

Many people choose divorce mediation for one reason: it’s faster and less expensive than a jury trial. Instead of combativeness, couples can collaborate on conflict resolution to ensure an easier transition for both parents and children.

In most trials, the proceedings are made public, including the documentation after the trial concludes. Mediation can protect your privacy and the privacy of your children during the process, since the proceedings aren’t public. There will be a court appearance in order to get a judgment of divorce, but that’s all. And there are other reasons:

  • You’ll avoid fighting it out in court with your spouse, and potentially result in a better relationship with your soon-to-be ex
  • Mediating a solution will make it easier on your children
  • Keep control of the divorce, since you will be making the decisions, not the court

Of course, you should also have your own attorney to represent you as you would with a jury trial. Your attorney will act as a “sounding board” so that you can ask questions and have a better understanding of the proceedings.

If you choose mediation but are unable to settle, you still have the option of going to trial. The mediator’s settlement isn’t a judgment, and you’ll have the opportunity to get that through the courts.

Consider Mediation For Your Divorce

At the Law Office of Stacy Sabatini, Esq., we provide an array of family law and related legal services to families in Rockland County. Whether you choose mediation or need to go to trial, we’re ready to help you and your family through this difficult time.

To find out more about mediation as well as our other services, please contact our office online by filling out our online form or call (845) 243-0295 today!

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