Most people prefer not to litigate family and divorce issues. This is because litigation is a stressful and antagonistic type of dispute resolution services, which can cause great harm to the parties and their children. Memories of the litigation will persist for many years, affecting the children’s lives and their own marriages.
Unlike dispute resolution services offered by conflict resolution mediators, litigation is very public. The case record is there for the children and grandchildren (and neighbors) to see. There might be unwanted media attention. The parties have little control over the outcome. Factors like who the judge is, his or her preference for one or other of the parties (or for one of the advocates), and the skills of the litigators will all contribute to the outcome. The result of the case generally cannot be predicted. Mediation puts the results of the conflict in the parties’ own control.
Litigation is very financially costly. It generally ends up costing 2 or 3 times what is estimated, expected, or hoped for. Resolving family matters through litigation generally takes a long time. There are often costly delays, and sometimes it takes 2 or 3 years to get a decision.
While litigation has all the downsides described above, it sometimes is needed.
Reasons to litigate can include the desire of parties to do battle with or punish each other. Or there might be a lack of clarity in the law pertaining to an important aspect of the dispute. Sometimes the parties are simply unable to communicate or work directly with one another to resolve their problems and cannot meet face-to-face in mediation or take advantage of other types of dispute resolution services.