The only true winners in divorce are parties who reach a fair settlement early in the divorce process – without going to court.
Let’s face it. Taking a divorce case all the way to court is expensive – in time, money, and relationships – especially if a custody battle is involved. Parents with young children pay especially high costs for going to court, because the divorce and custody battle brutally expose each parents’ absolute worst feelings for each other. An all-out custody battle leaves little room for future co-parenting trust or cooperation, so battles continue for every little disagreement with parents dragging each other back to court again and again even after the divorce. Saddest of all, an all-out custody battle often creates a social chasm because extended family and friends of the once-happy couple are forced to take sides. In the most extreme cases, the parties’ children grow up so upset by their parent’s bickering that the children (after they are grown) refuse to let either parent to attend weddings and other special events or to spend any time with the grandchildren.
Parties who reach a fair settlement early in the divorce process save thousands of dollars each. I often ask divorcing parents to think about how much more fun it would be to spend $5,000 or $10,000 or more taking their children to Disneyworld or on a European vacation rather than spending the money on attorneys to fight things out in court.
Parties who reach a fair settlement early also are happier when the divorce is finished – rather than still fuming at the other party for all of the terrible things said in court – and better able to work together as co-parents after the divorce. Parties who settle early tend to stay on better terms with mutual friends and both sets of the children’s grandparents as well as other extended family members. Most importantly, when parties reach a fair settlement early both parties are much more likely to get to attend all of the children’s soccer games, dance recitals, graduation parties, and the like.
So how is it done? How do divorcing couples reach a fair settlement early without going to court?
As the lawyers at Felt Family Law & Mediation can explain, first, it’s important to work together and play fair. Keep in mind that the marriage relationship will eventually be severed, but a co-parenting relationship lasts forever. Children eventually grow up and may get married and have their own children. You want to be a part of that, and getting along with your divorced ex is the number one way to help ensure you will still be invited to important events for your adult children and grandchildren. Also, one day you may need your adult child to take care of you. Both parties keeping the long-term perspective on those very important relationships will help to reach a fair settlement early.
Second, if you hire an attorney choose wisely. Some attorneys add unnecessary conflict and discourage parties from settling early, because a longer case improves the attorney’s bottom line. Some attorneys specialize in high-stakes litigation and only dabble in divorce and custody issues, which can lead to a win-at-all-costs approach. Unfortunately, the attorney may “win” but the parents and children ultimately pay the long-term costs. Choose an attorney who specializes in divorce and custody, who understands the long-term effects of custody litigation, and who is aware of and will work to protect all of your interests including your long-term goals and relationships.
Third, find a good mediator who specializes in divorce and custody mediation. A good mediator will help both parties focus on both short-term and long-term interests. A good divorce and custody mediator understands the importance of preserving positive co-parenting and extended family relationships. A good custody and divorce mediator coupled with good divorce and custody attorneys will help balance the interests and needs of both parties and will work toward a resolution that is fair and workable for both parties and for any children involved.
Lastly, keep in mind that not all cases are right for early settlement without going to court. Criminal cases, especially those involving domestic violence and crimes against the children, need the attention of authorities and the court. High-conflict cases, where parties are already fighting and can never seem to agree on everything, will probably also need the court to intervene. Sadly, in such cases the parties and their children have already lost. At that point, you need a good family attorney to help minimize the damage.
If you need help settling a divorce or custody case, find a good lawyer and mediator in your area who focus on divorce and custody issues and who know the local laws and court systems. Playing fair and working with the other party to reach a settlement early will maximize your odds of saving time, money, and important long-term relationships. Then you, your ex, and any children involved can be among the true winners in your divorce.