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Should I Settle Or Go To Trial?

Going to trial

For our family law clients in Kansas and Missouri, clients commonly want to know whether they should settle or go to trial. It is a very important decision in almost all family law litigation. Most clients will tell us early on that they prefer to settle. Very few clients meet with us and tell us that they are hopeful to go through the expense, stress, time and emotional burden of a trial. Many clients want to know what a reasonable outcome is and how they can achieve an amicable resolution without the necessity of trial. Experienced divorce and family law attorneys know that almost all cases should be settled. However, unfortunately, there are some situations that make settlement difficult or impossible.

When Do Child Custody Cases Have to Go To Trial?

Contested child custody cases are often very emotional and parents or parties become very “dug in” to their positions and concerns. This is particularly true if one parent has engaged in wrongful behavior such as abuse of the children, use of drugs, alcohol or mental health problems and difficulties that have substantially interfered with a parent’s ability to parent. Even in these types of difficult situations, experienced and knowledgeable family law attorneys will help the parties in utilizing the services of professionals who can help work through these issues, including co-parenting counselors or therapists, drug and alcohol treatment or evaluations, mental health evaluations and other similar services. Sometimes, parents have extreme difficulties in being able to communicate or work together with one another such that a co-parenting counselor or therapist is able to provide helpful services to the parties. Often, when the right professionals are involved, the parties are able to come up with a workable plan that ensures the protection and safety of the children while still protecting their best interests.

Do Cases Involving Complex Financial Assets Require a Trial?

When parties have disputes about financial assets, income or other unique financial issues, sometimes it can be difficult for parties to come to agreements outside of a trial. Often complicated asset issues will involve valuation of unique assets, alternative or restricted assets or stock awards, unique or executive compensation structures or appraisals of real estate, art or other collectibles. Often the solution in these kinds of cases is for the parties to engage experts to provide the information that they need to resolve the disputes. The parties can do this through jointly engaging a trusted expert to assist both parties or through individually engaging separate experts. If both parties have engaged knowledgeable and experienced experts, often when there are disagreements between the experts, the disputes can be resolved through communication between the experts. Again, this is an area where having knowledgeable and experienced family law counsel can make the difference- in some situations- of millions of dollars in ensuring that all assets are properly identified and accounted for, as well as in attempting to avoid the necessity of a trial through well reasoned advice from experienced experts.

Why Do You Need a Divorce or Family Law Attorney With Trial Experience If You Want to Settle Your Case?

There are some cases that end up going to trial, no matter how committed the parties or their attorneys are towards getting the case resolved through settlement. In some situations, it is due to the significant anger and unresolved emotions between the parties. In some situations, a fair and reasonable outcome simply cannot be negotiated. Having a divorce attorney with trial experience is important to a fair outcome in your case. Often, it is because of the knowledge that your spouse’s attorney is not afraid and prepared to go to trial that a settlement is achieved, i.e. both lawyers know that the other lawyer will take the case to trial if needed and seek out a fair outcome but with that knowledge, the lawyers can assist the parties in finding a well-reasoned outcome without the necessity of a trial.

How and When Do You Decide Whether to Settle Your Case or Have a Trial (where the case is decided by a Judge)?

This decision is often made throughout the circumstances of the case. In many cases, your lawyer will guide you or recommend to you that you attend mediation. In some cases, attending mediation is mandatory. In some family situations, even though one party wants to resolve a case through settlement, the other party refuses to be reasonable and it results in the case going to trial. In other cases, clients come to our office and tell us that a trial will be necessary, but as they address and work through issues, the concerns between the parties can be addressed and worked through amicably. An experienced divorce or family law attorney has both, excellent negotiation and problem-solving skills, as well as trial or court room skills and is prepared to help you address either path or option.

Is a Trial Risky?

The simple answer is yes. In a recent case, the other side was unreasonable, demanded a prolonged trial that lasted for days and days due to seeking sole custody. After hearing the evidence, the judge was able to determine that the other side’s position and litigation was unreasonable and resulted our client sole custody. This is just one example of how litigation can be risky! The other party thought they were litigating whether they would be granted “sole custody” or whether they would receive the default of continued “joint custody” however, the judge felt they were so unreasonable that the court gave our client the sole custody the other party was seeking.

How Can We Help?

At Pingel Family Law, we are knowledgeable and experienced in both, litigating and helping to resolve cases through mediation. We are regularly able to counsel and assist our clients with resolving their case through mediation, but also, we are prepared to take your case to trial if the circumstances of the case require it. Call today at (816) 208-8130 to schedule your consultation!

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