When going through a divorce, it is almost always prudent to attempt to settle the case through negotiation and/or mediation rather than go straight to court. There are several reasons for this. First, having a divorce trial is expensive. Through negotiation, you can learn a lot about what is important to the other side. For example, you may think that you both really want to keep the marital home, but may find out through negotiation that your spouse is not interested in it. In this case, even if you are unable to settle all issues and have to go to court, you can take this issue off the table, which will save everyone time and money.
Second, while it is unlikely the parties will each receive everything they want through negotiation and/or mediation, both parties will likely be happier at the end than if a Judge decided everything. Through negotiation/mediation, you have full control over the result. You do not have to agree to anything. Conversely, if you have a final trial, a Judge will decide all outstanding issues and you will be forced to comply with the final decree, whether you like it or not.
Third, you and your spouse can agree to things than a Judge is unable to order. For example, through negotiation/mediation, the parties may agree that the noncustodial parent can claim the dependency exemption on his/her tax returns. This exemption may make a big difference, particularly if that parent has a high income. The custodial parent may not care about receiving this exemption. A Judge, however, is unable to award the dependency exemption to anyone but the custodial parent. Therefore, each parent may use this issue as a bargaining chip throughout negotiation because it will go away if the case goes to a final trial.
In general, an unsuccessful attempt to settle a divorce case is better than no attempt at all. At a minimum you will learn more about what is important to the other party and may even be able to take some issues off the table for a final trial. Even failed settlement talks can save some time, money and headache for everyone involved.