Family courts are designed to settle legal matters concerning families when the families can’t settle them on their own. Settling is an interesting word. It does not mean in a way that satisfies everyone, nor does it mean fairness. I’ve been doing this work for decades, and I’ve never talked to a parent who took their divorce or custody case to court and said they felt heard, settled, and satisfied. Those who have said those things to me were the ones who worked it out on their own, and sometimes with a mediator. Even then, they still must go home and tell their kids they have to live in two different homes, and it will be hard.

Family courts are a major time and financial drain. According to LegalMatch, the average custody case costs $21,500, with hourly fees ranging from $300-500. Of course this depends on many factors. Retainers range from $5,000-$15,000 to just get started, and there is no guarantee where the ceiling is. Parents can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars when evaluators are involved and forensic experts are hired. Those who go to court often end up settling when they run out of money, with a result very similar to what they might have come up with on their own.

The most important consideration is weighing the risks of what playing the litigation chess game might directly or indirectly do to the children. Will the outcome be worth the children’s stress of worrying about their parents’ emotional states, wondering for months or years about what the future holds, or trying to figure out how to be on the right side of the conflict until it’s over? Is getting that extra few days a month going to erase those memories? Will it improve their long-term well-being to insure you get control of their extra-curricular activities or pay a couple hundred dollars less in child support? Who is going to help you figure out the risk/benefit analysis for your most precious asset – the innocent ones you say you are protecting.

Think twice before choosing the court to solve your issues. I say “maybe not” in the title above because there are reasons to litigate. But there are a hundred more reasons not to.

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