I recently learned of a paternity case out of Los Angeles where the parties collectively spent well over $100,000 in attorneys fees before the child in question was even a year old. Shocked? I am. How much money are they going to spend on attorneys for the next seventeen years while the child is growing up? While I do not know the specific facts of the case (paternity cases are not publicly accessible), I can surmise that it was a hotly litigated matter dealing with the usual issues of custody, visitation, and support – issues that are common to every paternity case. From what I’ve seen of Los Angeles and Orange County courts, the parties are generally ordered to attempt mediation before being allowed to litigate custody and visitation issues. The parties here must have had at least one opportunity to mediate and flatly refused to do so. Obviously, money was not an issue for them. If it is, they are probably fighting over that too.
For most people, the cost of family law litigation is an issue. $100,000 could put a child through college, and if a person were given the choice to put their own child through college or their attorney’s child, rationally, they would choose their own child. But apparently these people could not put aside their differences for the sake of their child, and chose the litigation route. As a point of information, Los Angeles has “guidelines” parenting plans for children of various ages, and unless one of the parents presents very compelling reasons to stray from those guidelines, chances are the custody and visitation orders, at least for the first three years of life, will be “by the book” and closely resemble the guidelines.
While not all people would consider mediation to resolve their family law issues, for people who are actually willing to listen to each other and work to negotiate orders that will work best for the parties and their children, mediation presents a very affordable alternative to litigation. Of course, mediation only works if both parties are participating in good faith in order to reach a compromise. Settlement is not simply one party handing their “surrender” terms to the other party. In cases involving children especially, it helps to keep their best interests in mind in order to work out custody and visitation orders that will help your children thrive and not simply punish the other parent by attempting to deprive them of custodial time. So should you attempt to mediate your family law case? The question is simple and can be answered simply by first asking yourself how much you want to spend on attorney’s fees. If the answer is considerably less than what the people in the paternity case spent, then you should give mediation a try.
Derrick Taberski is an experience family law mediator in Orange County, California, who can help couples with a wide range of family issues, including paternity and cases involving child custody and visitation. Call today to schedule your free initial mediation consultation.