When Should a Family Law Case be Settled?

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Family law cases – divorces and child custody matters – are filled with emotions.  One or both parties are at different times throughout the case angry, vengeful, desperate, hurt, sad, and frustrated.  These emotions are not the emotions of any rational business decision.  As a result, it is often difficult for a party to a family law matter to recognize when their case should be settled.  Therefore, it is important for a party to listen to his or her lawyer and other advisor when they say, “it is time to settle this case.”

There are many times and reason when a case should be settled; unfortunately, more often than not, the other party does not agree with the timing or reasoning, so settlement can be tricky.

Often settlement is sparked by the parties.  This is usually prompted by one or both of their desires to move on with their lives, their desire to conserve their financial resources and to insulate their children from a long, protracted divorce.  However, this is not always the case.  Often parties are so engaged in the fight that neither can seem to see the benefits of settling – they truly have blinders on.   Oscar Wilde once said, “the advantage of the emotions is that they lead us astray”, and while this may be advantageous in certain areas of one’s life, it is not advantageous in a contested divorce or child custody matter.  Therefore, it is important that when a client hears their lawyer say any of the following, that it is probably time to remove the blinders and consider settlement:

  1. “You cannot financially afford to continue to fight”
  2. “Your legal position is likely to not improve”
  3. “You risk a worse result by proceeding”
  4. “Your case has taken on a life of its own”

Settlement and disengaging from one of the biggest events of one’s life is not easy.  It is frightening to most people to consider the unknown of the future, to close a door and have a new door opened to an unknown new life.  But, if a party cannot trust their lawyer and other professionals, then they find themselves in a quagmire  – a case which never ends, or does not end properly or well.

If your case is not resolved early on, and you hear your lawyer tell you any of the statements above (or anything similar), it is time to settle – take control, take responsibility and make decisions which are good for you.