Everyone has a Constitutional right to his or her day in Court. That’s true, but at what cost does that day come? We often hear comments like “I will not settle, I’ll take my case to Trial!” or “I’ve given as much as I’m going to give, if they don’t like it, let’s see what the Judge says!” All fair points. No litigant is required to settle his or her case. They can take their case to Trial and they can find out what the Judge will say.
Here’s the thing: no one knows 1) how long it will take to get trial dates, 2) how long it will take to try the case to conclusion, 3) when you will hear what the Judge does have to say, 4) what the Judge will say or 5) how much it will cost to get there. No one can deny there is a constitutional right to your day in Court. But no one can guarantee any outcome, either. Just because you present your case to a Judge does not mean they will side with you. They could rule in your favor, in the other party’s favor or somewhere in the middle. Family Court has what are called Bench Trials meaning there is no jury; only a single judge hears your case and decides it. How they will decide it, no one knows until the decision is rendered. Because Family Court has Bench Trials, it is very difficult to get trial dates. Consecutive trial dates where the Court hears your case and only your case from start to finish are virtually unheard of, the Court does its best to accommodate Trials, but that may mean an afternoon here, a morning there and no next date for a month or so if you’re lucky. In the meantime, there is no resolution to your case and no closure to allow you to process it and move on.
Then there is the actual cost of trial. These costs are not limited to your attorney fees and let’s be honest, they add up. It costs a lot to prepare for and conduct trial. There is the attorney time to prepare for and attend Court, the copying costs for all those exhibits, the travel time, it all adds up. But that’s not all. Trial costs you in other ways, too. They include the time and energy it takes to prepare for and go to Court and if you do need more days to gear up and go to Court all over again for the next date. There is the time off of work to go to Court. There is the babysitter to pay to watch the children or pick them up from school for you while you are at Court. There is the emotional cost of having to know that this process just keeps going and that you don’t know when the end will be in sight. Even when the Judge does rule in your case, there are appeal rights.
Or, you can take matters into your own hands and resolve your case without Trial. Will it require compromise? Yes. Will it mean letting go of something you wanted? Probably. Will it require letting all of the “it’s the principle of the matter” points go? Very likely. However, by letting go of principal and resolving your case, you are not giving up. Exactly the opposite in fact, you are putting your expertise in your life, your family, your case and your needs above everything else. No matter how much you impart to your attorney or the Court, no one will ever be as expert in your case as you and no one will ever know what is most important and thus, valuable to you. You are taking the control back and crafting your own future in a manner that no attorney or judge ever can. Letting go is not giving up. It’s empowering.