It is no secret that in Family Court, most Judges prefer that the parties settle the cases amongst themselves. They will try to engage in settlement with the parties, through counsel, by providing guidance and recommendations at case management and pretrial conferences. Sometimes, settlement can be a difficult sell to a person who has already taken the steps towards litigation. Oftentimes, in settlement discussions, people are discouraged because they believe that if they go to trial, that they could get everything that they are asking for. While that is always possible, in my experience in family court, that is not the usual course of business.
As attorneys, we enjoy litigating matters, otherwise we wouldn’t be in this profession and area of law. However, client’s best interests are at the forefront, and litigation is not always the best way to go to achieve the best results for a client. There are a few reasons why settlement may be more beneficial than litigation, in some matters:
(1) There is no ability to appeal. If you go to trial in a case, if the other party doesn’t like all or part of the results, they have the ability to appeal. You then, usually, have to respond, and go through the appellate process to protect your order. This can be very cost prohibitive in family court. If the parties agree and settle the case, there is no possibility of an appeal, because a Judge didn’t make the decision, and this helps to curb the costs.
(2) You aren’t putting major decisions in the hands of a stranger. You may want everything that you are asking for in your petition, and you may or may not get it. Judges do their best to be fair to all sides in family law cases, and there can be a lot of anxiety (rightfully so) regarding putting important issues regarding your family and finances in the hands of a complete stranger.
(3) You may not get everything you want, even at a trial. Judges try to be fair to everyone, and a lot of times they will try to “meet in the middle” on issues, even at a trial. Going to trial doesn’t mean getting everything that you want. You could also lose every issue a trial, too.