The Power of Negotiated Agreement
By John H. Bolen
The Gasper Law Group
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that family courts have a number of drawbacks – from high costs to overburdened judges – which demonstrate why they are generally the wrong place to resolve a domestic relations issue. In addition to being outrageously expensive, the legal system heightens negative emotions, and purposefully poses one “side” against the other.
In most cases involving children, for example, the best thing that can probably happen is for parents to be on the same ‘team,’ and not think of themselves as being on opposite “sides.” Unfortunately, this is also one of the most difficult concepts to get a parent fighting over children to accept, and part of the reason why is because of the system itself.
If your highest priority is to make the other person miserable, a 'tough guy’ approach may be best for you. But you’d need to be prepared to spend literally tens of thousands of dollars in the fight, with no guarantee of coming out ahead of the other person. It is very common for parties to a domestic case to rack up legal fees that are many, many times the dollar amount of an issue at stake. Allowing this type of thing to happen may fill the coffers of the lawyers, and can satisfy damaged egos. In the long run, though, it doesn’t benefit you or anyone else who truly matters. Beware of those who seek to profit from making sure your problems only get bigger.
You deserve to hear an honest legal assessment about your chances in Court and the Gasper Law Group will ensure you are fully apprised. It’s safe to assume you would hire an attorney for professional advice, and your attorney will presume that you actually listen to the advice you are paying to hear. If you’re better off going to Court, we will let you know. If you are better off settling, you need to understand that too. Your attorney should want you to know exactly what to expect in Court rather than spend the rest of the attorney-client relationship explaining why he or she couldn't deliver on promises that really shouldn’t have been made in the first place.
The following are expenses you can expect to incur when you have to go to court:
• Your attorney fees and possibly a portion of the other party’s attorney’s fees
• All fees associated with filing court documents
• Fees for any experts that are necessary
• Fees for depositions should the need arise
• Fees related to any expenses incurred during the discovery phase of the case
• Loss of income for time taken off work
• Any travel expenses should you have to travel long distance
You also have to consider the emotional expense of a long drawn out legal battle that you are sure to get, should the case have to be litigated in court. Here’s something else you need to know: family law courts operate with the same basic legal rules used by the courts that deal with car accidents, disputes between giant corporations, and criminal charges from petty theft to murder. These rules unfortunately do not work very well in solving the disputes that arise in the process of ending a marriage or resolving other family law issues. The court system was not originally set up to deal with the breakdown of a family.
In the end, a judge will only get a relatively brief snapshot of the circumstances, but must make a binding decision about what’s going to happen to you and any children, literally in a matter of minutes after only briefly hearing both sides of the story. You have an extremely limited amount of time to present your side of the story to the judge. Once you put any disagreement in the hands of a judge, at that point, you will lose control over your life. You will have absolutely zero ownership over the specific solution to the problem. Instead, the solution will be placed in the hands of a third party who barely knows you or the other person.
This is not the ideal way to resolve a domestic matter, because (1) you probably know the other person better than anyone else; and (2) if you can just work to set aside negative emotional roadblocks, the two of you could craft a solution that works for your particular circumstances far better and with much more detail than any judge (or other stranger to your lives) could.
If you or the other person cannot compromise by working together to craft the terms of your own negotiated agreement, the court system will ultimately impose or force a compromise on you instead. Sometimes a compromise simply cannot be reached because of your particular situation, or the other person may simply refuse to agree to anything. In that case, the Gasper Law Group is well-equipped to deal with it. No lawyer can accurately predict with certainty what any given judge will do. Most of the time, the best advocacy in a domestic case often happens behind the scenes -- making any contested court hearings unnecessary in the first place.