In family law, it is well documented that over 90% of cases settle before trial, but the reasons driving such a high rate of settlements is probably less clear to most people, except those of us that have spent decades working with families in the legal trenches.
Not only is the court process expensive, but it is also far from speedy or private. As time goes on, many find that living with tremendous uncertainty during a very public display of one’s worst life moments takes quite a toll on a person’s health and emotional well-being. Many of my clients report issues with sleep deprivation, sudden weight loss or gain, hair loss, lack of focus, increased irritability and compromised immune systems. You don’t need to have an M.D. to realize there is a direct correlation between a person’s messy divorce and an undeniable deterioration in his/her health.
Now if the parents can barely keep it together, just imagine what this is doing to their kids, who rely on the adults for everything. Too often, the children are stuck in the middle watching their parents create chaos while taking needless digs at one another. The uncontroverted research is clear: the more the children are exposed to conflict, the worse off they will be for a very, very long time.
So, when we look at managing the risks of a litigated case, it’s not just about weighing your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) vs. your Worst Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (WATNA), but all the factors I just mentioned about your health, finances, privacy, and impact to your kids that have to be taken into account.
Fortunately, most rational people are able to take into account all the relevant data points and decide there is more to be won from reaching a compromise than there is to be gained from a prolonged court battle. It is not about letting someone else off the hook, but rather it’s about letting yourself (and your children) move forward with your dignity and sanity intact.
I realize that HCPs (High Conflict Personalities) do not make it easy to disengage and reach a compromise, and sadly those are often the ones driving that 10% of cases that do go to trial. These really are the worst of the worst, but all I can say is if given a choice, I hope you find a way to disembark from the train to Crazy Town.
By Regina A. DeMeo