“I’ll see you in court!” It’s a popular movie line, but maybe not the best way to handle a family issue like parenting time or even division of property if you and your spouse split up.
At Hightower Reff Law in Omaha, Nebraska, we have helped clients settle family law cases and we have represented clients at trial in family law cases for many years.
There are a number of reasons why most times, settlement is better.
The Bad and the Ugly – Trial Tribulations
Family law cases are almost always tough on families. There’s just no way around it. No matter how hard the parties or the lawyers try to be civil or ease he stress, the cases are emotional, the decisions are tough, and the stakes are high.
In our experience at Hightower Reff Law, very rarely – if ever – does a trial do anything positive to ease hurt feelings or outright anger of a divorcing spouse or to heal a hurting family. If you go to trial, it’s your attorney’s job to convince a judge that you should prevail. Meanwhile, it’s the other side’s job to point out how wrong your lawyer is about your position.
The other side often will bring up every little negative thing that you have ever done and make it seem like the worst thing ever – and your lawyer may have to do the same to your soon to be ex-spouse or parent of your children. It can get very ugly.
A trial is never predictable, and is not for the faint of heart. It can be a blood bath that causes even more hard feelings than the parties already harbor for one another. It can also make for problems in co-parenting children after the divorce or custody modification trial is over.
In the end, the true casualties of the battle of a trial are often the children because they can suffer when their parents harbor animosities toward each other.
The Good – Settlement Process Setting the Stage
As ugly as a trial can be, the settlement process can be just as good. It isn’t a guarantee; sometimes people can’t reach an agreement. However – regardless of ultimate success – the process itself can encourage divorcing spouses or parents of children involved a custody case to find a bit of common ground and set the stage for future success by giving them practice working together with the common goal of supporting the best interests of their children.
If they are going to continue to co-parent children, working together is something parents will need to continue to do. The more harmoniously they can do it, the better off their children will be.
A True Chance to be Heard
The outcome of your family law case affects the most important aspects of your life – things like your children, your marriage, your home and your assets. Why would you leave all of the decisions regarding those precious things in the hands of a third party?
By going to trial in a family law case, you are doing just that, you are asking a third party – a judge – to decide the disposition of your time with your children and your financial assets. You have no control over any of it. In many cases, it makes more sense to take some control of those decisions yourself and have input in their outcome through a settlement agreement that you and the other party reach with the help of your attorneys or a mediator.
In the settlement process – whether it’s negotiation or mediation – you have the chance for your voice to truly be heard, and for your wishes to be incorporated into the final court order that comes from the settlement agreement.
How the Settlement Process Works
During the settlement process, you and the other party work – in the same room or in separate rooms, depending on circumstances – with a mediator or with your attorneys to come up with an agreement. You both have input. Nothing is put in writing and sent to the court for approval unless you both agree.
The settlement agreement, once approved by the court, is an enforceable order and both parties must abide by it or they are subject to the court’s contempt powers. However, the need to enforce an agreed upon settlement order is less likely than an order that the court decided because the parties are more likely to stick to it.
Through years of experience as family law attorneys, the Hightower Reff team has found that clients are most satisfied with an agreed upon outcome they help craft in mediation or settlement negotiations.
Never say Never
While Settlement is usually better in family law cases, trial can have its place. Sometimes a trial is necessary – but, if the lawyer does her job well, those times can be relatively few in family law cases.
An example of one of those times when a trial on an issue may be warranted is child support when there it appears there is a reason for deviation under Nebraska Guidelines and the other party refuses to be reasonable and agree to the deviation.
This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts.