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When Others Make the Decisions in a Divorce

Sprint/Nextel has a humorous new commercial (embedded below) which posits what the world would be like if loggers ran things.  The context of the commercial is loggers making decisions (and carrying them out) in a divorce.  While the commercial is “cute”, the analogues to real life are there. Do you want others to make important decisions for you, or would you rather make them yourself?

A mediator can help the parties communicate and assist them in making their own decisions…unless of course, you want your house/boat sawed in half.

Remember to Change Your Records When You Divorce

Always remember to update your official records when you get divorced.  These include bank accounts,beneficiaries of investments and insurance policies, and co-insureds.  Many people do not think about these things and it can get you into trouble.  I previously reported about the ex-spouse who inherited money she was not entitled in the divorce decree because the husband forgot to change his beneficiary.  Earlier this year, the mayor of Carlsdadt, NJ and his ex-wife were convicted of health insurance fraud; they forgot to notify the insurance company about the divorce.  This generally must be done within 60-days of the divorce decree being finalized.

Make sure you do everything you need to when you get a divorce.

Why It Is Better to Settle a Lawsuit Early

I tell all my civil mediation clients the same thing:  If you’re going to settle, settle early.  Why?  That gets to why a litigant should settle a lawsuit in the first place.

When a litigant settles a case, they are essentially “buying off” two costs.  The first is the risk of losing the case.  This applies whether you are the plaintiff or defendant.  As you know from an earlier post, statistically winning and losing in state courts are a roughly 50-50 crap shoot.

The second are transactional costs.  These are the costs for the attorney, court costs and fees (filings, motions, etc.), experts costs, costs for a court reporter in depositions, etc.  In most cases, these are cost that you do not get back regardless of the outcome of the litigation.  80% of the costs to try a case come in the discovery phase. The discovery phase is the pre-trial period when documents are exchanged, depositions are taken, experts are engaged to do studies, etc.  Discovery is essentially the phase where you learn what the other side knows (and vice versa) to be able to value a case.  Settling on the court house steps just before or during trial does not eliminate these costs.

The further litigants get into the discovery process, something call “escalation of conflict” occurs.  In essence, the more you’ve spent, the more you want to spend to get the outcome you want.  Thus, settlements become harder to reach (and most people tell me the later settlements were the same as what they could have had earlier in the process).

How does mediation help?  Mediation gets the parties talking to each other in a structured environment, which accelerates the discovery process by getting the information exchange going early.  If parties need to verify claims made in the mediation, they can do so before the settlement is finalized.

Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss further how mediation can help you save money and resolve your lawsuits.