If you are going through the process of litigating a divorce or family law matter, the stress of the unknown can often be the worst part. Putting your family’s future in the hands of a judge or magistrate is hard to swallow and can be daunting. The alternative to going to court and letting a judge make decisions about your life is to reach an out-of-court settlement. Agreements that are reached outside of court in a family law case are filed with the court, and they become enforceable court orders.
What are the real costs and benefits of settling vs. litigating? Settlement can provide both tangible and intangible benefits to those who are looking to reduce costs while still obtaining an outcome they are comfortable with.
As part of an Initial Status Conference with the Court, many judges and magistrates will try to impart some guidance to you as you start your case. In the words of our own judicial officers, “you know your lives and family better than the Court ever could,” so you are more likely to get a resolution that you are satisfied with if you resolve matters outside of the courtroom.
While settlement is not feasible in every case, when you reach agreements outside of court, you have the best opportunity to discuss the unique needs of your family and to reach agreements that you are comfortable with and that actually work for you, your children, and your ex spouse.
The ability to successfully resolve your case starts with developing strategy and positions early on in your case. At GEM Family Law, we work with clients to discuss possible outcomes in your case, starting with your initial consultation with one of our attorneys. From the start, you should discuss both your short and long-term goals with your attorney, as this helps us determine how to best handle your family law matter. While you may not have control over the other party’s positions or willingness to be reasonable, discussing likely outcomes will enable you and your attorney to work productively in negotiations. Moreover, in the event that you do have to go to trial, it is far better for you to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of your position.
There are a number of tangible benefits to settling your case outside of court. The Court runs, not by the clock, but by the calendar. Setting a matter for a hearing (or for more than one hearing) can extend the duration of a case by months and can increase costs substantially. Reaching agreements can help resolve the entirety or parts of your case more quickly. This generally means less time off work, fewer attorney fees, and fewer dollars spent on childcare that you may need when you are in court.
A quicker resolution to a matter can also reduce the emotional burden that ongoing litigation can have on all of those involved. When you are in the throws of litigation, both parties are often focused on the “win.” This can lead to resentment, the airing of “dirty laundry” in court, and, if you have children together, this can lead to a broken co-parenting relationship moving forward. If you have children together, you have a future of graduations, weddings, birthdays, etc. ahead of you. Many people weigh the intangible cost of risking a co-parenting relationship as they consider settlement opportunities against the option of litigating their matter in court.
While not every case is suitable to settle outside of court, it is certainly worth discussing possible out of court resolution to your family law case with your attorney. Choosing an attorney that can both work diligently to resolve your case out of court while also being prepared to litigate is critical to protecting your interests and the future that you envision for your family. The experienced attorneys at GEM Family Law can help you navigate this process. If you have questions about a family law matter that you’d like assistance with, call GEM Family Law for a free consultation today at (303) 317-3239.
Authored by: Anthony Zarsky, Esq., Associate Attorney