The vast majority of clients who hire an attorney in a family law matter would like to avoid an emotionally and financially expensive trial. This is an understandable goal that is easy to understand. It is not an enjoyable experience to have to testify in court, nor see family members and loved ones testify. Most parties would also prefer not to spend hard-earned money on litigation.
The big dilemma is how does a client best achieve the objective of resolving a case short of trial? In handling countless family law matters, I contend that President Ronald Reagan’s approach of “peace through strength” in dealing with the Soviet Union in the Cold War is usually the best way to get a client to their goal of a reasonable settlement in a family law matter. This is especially true in cases that do not settle right from the beginning and when there are some areas of disagreement.
In these cases where disagreements are evident, a client is smart to allow their attorney to work their case up the right way. This means that the client allows the attorney to issue discovery such as interrogatories or requests for production. Where other documents or evidence are needed to put forth the best case, this also means allowing an attorney to subpoena necessary documents and witnesses. Where expert testimony is needed to make the best case (like an appraiser, forensic accountant, psychologist, etc.), then these individuals need to be retained early in the process.
In any family law case, an attorney needs to have the opportunity to take a deposition of the opposing party and any necessary witnesses. After all, Tiger Woods does not simply play a golf course for the first time in an important tournament. Instead, he walks the course and takes some practice shots before ever taking real swings that count. A deposition allows an attorney to do the same.
By doing this, the opposing party often realizes that settling is the best bet because you are prepared for a trial. While it might cost some money for a client on the front end, this can often grease the wheels in the settlement process. This can also lead the other side to come off of unreasonable positions because they will see that you are prepared.
In contrast, some parties wrongly assume that if you are trying to settle a case that you should not allow the attorney to do what is appropriate to get the case ready for trial because this will antagonize the other side. This is the wrong approach. Weakness or appeasement rarely gets a case settled when there are substantive disagreements on the outcome.
In short, if a case does not settle from the very beginning (or within the first 30-60 days or so after the case has begun), a client is wise to understand that “peace through strength” is the best way to get a case resolved. Only then does a client have the leverage to elicit a favorable settlement offer.
Only then does the other party fear a family law or divorce trial and become reasonable. If a fair settlement offer never comes, at least you’ll be ready for trial and be in the best position for a favorable result.
To contact Stange Law Firm, PC, you can call us at 314-963-4700 or contact us at St. Louis Family Law Attorneys.