One dynamic that I see repeated in family law matters is that most families stay on the legal path that they chose at the beginning of the divorce. For instance, most couples that pick-up the sledgehammer of litigation from the beginning stay on the litigation path for the remainder of their dispute. Likewise, most couples that pick up the chisel of collaborative divorce or mediation resolve future issues through those same processes.
The reason for this, based on my observations, is that litigation creates, feeds and depends upon hard feelings. Typically couples choose litigation because they are so angry or inflexible that they cannot productively negotiate with each other. (There are exceptions to this; some couples have very complex or novel legal issues that are best handled in litigation). The competitive win/lose nature of litigation encourages negative statements and testimony about the other party. That creates hard feelings and anger, which in turn creates more negative statements. This is, perhaps, the biggest reason couples are rarely able to avoid future litigation once they have chosen that path. (Some people begin litigation but end up resolving their disputes in court ordered mediation. However, even those people typically file a lawsuit again when the next issue flares up).
On the other hand, couples that choose to avoid litigation in the beginning typically choose to avoid litigation in future disputes. In my experience, choosing non-litigation processes for conflict resolution avoids many of the hard feelings and competitive tactics of litigation. Thus, the parties are able to maintain a problem solving focus instead of a competitive focus. These couples often choose collaborative divorce or mediation from the outset. They then return to these processes for future problems.
Given this dynamic, it should be obvious that the first steps a couple takes in divorce will have a long lasting impact on their disputes and their families. Therefore, it is imperative that couples learn about their options for resolving their disputes before picking a path.
Randolph (Tré) Morgan III is an experienced family law attorney accepting cases in Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Clayton, Smithfield, Wake Forest, RTP, Durham, Chapel Hill, Holly Springs and surrounding areas. He focuses his practice in divorce, child custody, alimony, child support, equitable distribution, property division, paternity, guardianship and other family related matters.