Want to Keep Your Family Law Dispute Out of Court?

You are lucky if you do not have a friend or family member with an account of an ugly courtroom battle during their separation and/or divorce.  Often those unhappy individuals spent a frightening amount of money on lawyers and other experts during a running battle, which likely spanned years, only to arrive at an order that they may be lukewarm about or that even makes them very unhappy.  In many such cases, the ability of the parties to communicate and parent cooperatively in the best interests of their children erodes as a result of the adversarial litigation process, until it eventually becomes impossible for the family to function absent strict court orders enforced by severe court consequences and perhaps even police enforcement.

Consider as well that the court is a public service and your case, once filed in the court, can be viewed by the public or other family members (with certain limited exceptions) upon payment of a small fee. 

It is often possible to either keep your affairs out of the court entirely, or at least minimize your usage of the court process, if the parties are prepared to consider other options for resolving their issues.

Traditionally referred to as “Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)”, options like Family Mediation, Family Arbitration, the hybrid Med/Arb (i.e., mediation followed by arbitration for issues not resolved) and Collaborative Family Law Practice offer a means of addressing family issues, as well as a means of reaching a workable resolution of your issues tailored to your particular situation with little or no involvement of the court.  These options offer many advantages over the court-based approach including:

  • They are confidential in nature and not accessible to the public, other family members, or other third parties.  This confidentiality allows an opportunity to preserve your privacy and resolve your issues in a more dignified and respectful manner.
  • Since they rely on private resources rather than the institutional framework of the courts, they can be far more flexible in their timing as well as the speed with which issues can be addressed and agreements can be reached.
  • These alternatives are often less expensive then more formal court proceedings and can be tailored to the specific resources and priorities of the parties.  In some instances, parties may retain lawyers to assist them throughout the process, or perhaps only to review agreements, or perhaps not at all where appropriate.
  • It can also be said that while family law resolutions must be reached “in the shadow of the law” (i.e., they must reflect the laws of the land if they are to withstand the scrutiny of the courts and be enforced by the apparatus of the law at some future date), they may also be tailored and specifically fashioned to address the unique needs of the parties while accounting for their own creativity, innovation and values in finding their own solutions to their problems.