Here’s a declaration against interest if ever there was one: I am an attorney with a family law and child custody litigation practice, and I am saying that, whenever possible, opt out of the traditional litigation system. You see, a hard-fought litigation case can be a real plumb for a guy like me—as the more conflict you engage in, the more hours I bill on your case. A case going to a family law trial is worth about $50,000 or more to me.
There are plenty of attorneys out there willing to profit from your misery, but I want you to have an amicable divorce. According to well-known divorce litigators J. Richard Kulerski and Kari Cornelison, this what divorce lawyers do in their own divorces:
They try to stay out of court. Despite their familiarity with the system, and despite any perceived advantage they are believed to have, they do everything they can to settle their case before it reaches the court system.
Divorce insiders try to resist the inclination to fight. They think going to court is a losing proposition. It wastes energy, time, and money and is a last resort; it is something they will consider only when there is no other choice.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
If you are already up to your eyeballs in litigation, consider contacting your spouse and gently explaining why it’s not in either of your interest to keep running up the bill. Contrary to popular belief, it’s perfectly permissible to call your spouse on the telephone, even if they have an attorney.
When calling, lead off by explaining why it’s in the other party’s best interest to call off the dogs.
After this, I recommend substituting in yourselves each as your own attorneys of record, and instructing your attorneys not to do further work on the case. Then, find a mediator who can help you to resolve the issues. Use your attorney for consultation on specific issues, and to review your settlement agreement once you have resolved the case. If you can’t settle in mediation, you’re always free to go back to the traditional system.
It won’t work in every case, but I’ve seen it work in several cases I myself mediated. One couple, two physicians, contacted us shortly after their first Request for Order Hearing to tell us that they’d each spent over $15,000, and were nowhere near resolving their case. We were able to get their case settled and finalized within just a few weeks, at a huge savings to both parties.
One of the keys to making this work is to adopt a big picture perspective, and I’m going to deal with that next week.
Until then, I wish you much amicability on your road to your new post-divorce life.
Very truly yours,