I like to help my family law clients make their own decisions privately and respectfully, while avoiding the court system. That’s not always possible. Sometimes one or both parties are determined to have their day in court or they try to reach an agreement and just aren’t able to do so. I believe there are three elements to keep in mind if litigation is the only option.

First, make sure you keep your ultimate goal in mind. Hopefully that goal is to reach a resolution as efficiently as possible, without harming your family relationships any more than absolutely necessary. If your goal is to make the other party pay (literally and/or figuratively) with no regard for how it affects your family, I’m not the lawyer for you. So when you are navigating the court system, don’t get sidetracked from your goal. It’s easy to lose focus in litigation and engage in battles that will not further your interests, because it’s an adversarial system that makes people fight against each other. Do what is necessary to reach a resolution, but no more.

Second, never shut the door on a possible resolution by agreement just because you started down the path to a court-imposed decision. It’s never too late to reach an agreement. Even if you’ve spent considerable amounts of time and money working toward having a court make a decision, you will be better served by reaching a mutually agreeable solution than by having someone else make that decision for you. You and your family members know what’s best for your family. Don’t lose sight of that and develop tunnel vision with the belief that once you start down this path, only the court system can make decisions for your family.

Third, narrow down the points of disagreement if possible. If you’re getting divorced, you may be able to agree on how your property will be divided, but not on how both spouses will meet their expenses. In my experience, courts are happy to decide narrow issues such as alimony, taking into account the agreed-upon division of assets, which will save a considerable amount of money, time and aggravation. The reverse may also be true. Or maybe you’re able to agree on most or all of the property values, but not how things will be divided. If you’re making decisions about parenting and custody, you may be able to agree on the underlying facts surrounding your family situation, but not the ultimate outcome. The more you can agree on, the better off you will be.

Sometimes court is the only option to resolve a divorce or other family law matter. If that’s the case, you must then decide how you will approach the court process. If you would like to discuss the court process in central Pennsylvania, including Carlisle, Harrisburg, Hershey and surrounding areas, please contact me.