Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Costs of Litigation in Family Courts

The Cost of Litigation

Litigation is expensive. Period.  
For example, to be ready for court, your attorney will typically have to prepare for an average of at least three hours in his/her office for every hour spent in court. 
Most clients don't recognize this and they get upset when they receive their legal bills. Many clients complain their attorneys "did not do anything on their case". However, this is not true from the attorney's perspective - the attorney talked to opposing counsel, prepared legal documents, talked to their client either on the phone or responded to their emails/text messages.  Attorneys bill for their time. They expect to be paid for their time.  
This is one of many reasons why it’s in the client's interest to resolve cases through negotiation whenever a good result can be obtained by doing so. Those negotiations can take place in the form of informal discussions between spouses, through settlement discussions between the attorneys or through mediation. 

The Emotional Price of Litigation

In addition to the obvious financial costs of litigation, there are also profound emotional costs for clients and their children. 
Children can be emotionally scarred for life by their parents litigation.  It does not matter if the children are 3, 13, 23, or 33. Divorce is hard for children.  Watching their parents marriage unravel is horrible for children.  Watching their parents behave  and rip each other to shreds is horrible for children.  Children do not want to choose sides.  Children do not want to be placed in the middle.  
I had a case with a suicidal 10 yr. old boy.  He was so tired of his parents fighting that he decided to kill himself.  He kept jumping off his parent's roof.  He kept breaking body parts.  His parents kept screaming at each other "look at what you did" -- neither could see what they were doing to him!  It was a heartbreaking case.  
People going through divorce may experience anger, resentment, sadness and other challenging emotions. It can be hard for spouses to cope with these stresses while also attempting to make rational decisions about the case itself. That’s why experienced and smart attorneys guide clients to make wise choices. The cost of letting emotions drive litigation can be extremely high, both financially and emotionally.  I've seen people spend thousands of dollars fighting over worthless kitchens pots & pans. I resolved a case because a woman wanted the children's turtle -- she wanted just one more thing & the children's turtle was the only thing left to divide.  

Considering the Costs

A spouse seeking to punish the other punishes himself. Consider what such revenge costs – in harm to children, in funds expended unnecessarily, in time wasted – often months or years that could have been invested in recovery and getting on with life. A contentious divorce impacts everyone. Emotion-driven litigation that is aimed at punishing the other spouse will harm you and your children too.

The Attorney's Job

Part of your attorney’s job is to help you determine what is in your best interest and the best interests of your children. In some cases, a "legal battle" may be necessary. If so, the decision should be made based on the facts of the case. Litigation should not be driven by emotion (though such emotions are normal and understandable).  Hire an attorney that you feel comfortable talking with -- someone that listens to you.  Hire an attorney that you trust and have confidence in.  
At the end of the day, the attorney is going to guide you through your divorce and you need have hopefully hired a wise and grounded attorney that look out for your best interests in the long run -- not the short-haul.  
You are going through one of the worst times of your life.  If you have hired a smart and well-respected attorney, the attorney will also counsel you and look out for your best interests when you are perhaps being at your worst. 
When you feel like you are drowning in a sea of doubt and confusion, the attorney should rise about the entanglements and serve as your life-saver to guide you through the unknown,rough waters of divorce.  
When I litigated, I told my clients...I am thinking about where you will be in 2 will be in a much different place...I am here today to protect you.  In two years if you go into therapy and work hard, you will be in a much better place.  
I have actually had 2 people call me and thank me for protecting them from themselves.  They told me that everything that I told them during their divorce came true.  They went into therapy, worked hard and in two years, they were in a much better place...their lives were wonderful, they were co-parenting with their ex's, and their children were happy.  They told me that they had referred everyone they knew to me & that I'd been the best thing that had ever happened to them. Both of them said that I had literally been a life-saver. 
That is why I mediate today...

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