As far as a divorce goes, you will probably end up signing a stip with your spouse at some point before, during or even after trial. A stipulation is a signed agreement that is notarized between spouses. It usually details the terms of the agreement. Usually attorneys use the short form of the word, “stip” rather than the long form “stipulation. But they mean the same thing. A stip in a New York Divorce covers things like health insurance, custody, child support, alimony, property, asset distribution, and any other matters pertaining to the divorce.
It is always best for the parties if they can agree on the terms of the divorce and sign a stip from the start. But usually it takes a bit of lawyering and motion practice before the parties agree to terms. I have found that when the parties realize how much money a trial costs, they tend to agree to terms very quickly.
Recently in news, it is clear that Jim McGreevey, former governor and beleagured former husband and his wife could not stip to certain terms–particulary with respect to spousal support. He is saying he’s broke and is bankrupt and had to borrow money from his gay lover to pay for the legal proceedings. He says he cannot afford to pay alimony. Therefore there was no stipulation of agreement. It was probably cheaper for him to borrow the $200K to litigate the case, than stip to anything. Who knows how long he would have had to pay? A lot of times the court awards alimony till the other spouse either re-marries, dies, or has a major change in circumstances. Over time, that would probably be a lot more out of pocket than $200K for McGreevey so it was best to go to trial in that case.
But normally, I think it is a lot more economical if the parties can come to a stipulation of settlement/agreement.