Settle or Fight
SHOULD YOU SETTLE ISSUES OR FIGHT?
Settle every issue possible, only litigate as a last resort.
It’s very simple, the fewer issues you litigate, the less you usually pay in attorney fees. As such, it generally makes more sense (financially) to reach agreements, where possible. For each and every issue that you don’t litigate, you don’t pay attorneys to call each other, write letters to each other, file motions and attend court hearings. It also makes the process much less stressful on you and, if you have children, less stressful on them.
I tell my clients to do a cost/benefits comparison for every monetary issue they intend to litigate. In other words, what will it likely cost to litigate over that issue verses what you MIGHT gain (or lose) by litigating, AFTER deducting the cost for the litigation. (Always consider that litigation is rarely a “sure thing”). So, if you can offer your former spouse less money to settle the issue than you would have paid the attorney to litigate it, haven’t you already won?
If you believe the battle being waged over the children is more about the child support calculation that will likely follow, (child support is largely based on the parties respective incomes and the percentage of time each parent has “physical responsibility” for the children), consider offering more or receiving less in child support to get the visitation order that you believe is appropriate for the children. Typically, both child visitation and child support remain modifiable until the children graduate from High School or turn 19 years old, whichever comes first.
Why Does the Other Side Want to Litigate Everything?
There are situations where there is just no room for settlement. A prime example would be where children are legitimately at risk of being harmed in the other parent’s care. But more often, it is because the other side has been listening to friends or a lawyer that have convinced them that they: 1.) “need to assert their rights;” 2.) “need to make the other side PAY for what they have done,” and/or; 3.) have assured them a “courtroom victory.” Why would an attorney do this? Attorney’s are advocates to assert their client’s rights and goals. Attorneys do this through the legal process and by settlement, where feasible. But you must also remember that the more committed to the fight the parties are, the more in fees the attorney will likely make. Understanding this, be cautious of a lawyer that sounds more like a cheerleader (touting your pending victory) than like a surgeon, (explaining the pros and cons of surgery).
Because you can’t force someone to settle, you should be prepared to hire a lawyer that is aggressive and experienced. But listen to the lawyer carefully. Make certain that he or she has explained both the best and worse case scenarios to you. ALWAYS ask about the likely cost(s) of each step in the process. Finally, your attorney should be explaining to you what investigation (discovery) he or she will engage in and what it is intended to do or prove.
We are experienced and aggressive when it comes to investigating the underlying facts of our client’s case, often times using private investigators and taking depositions (interview questions under oath) to prepare our cases for litigation.