In his book Heat, author Bill Buford goes behind the scenes of celebrity chef Mario Batals three star New York City restaurant Babbo. In this short column, I’ll attempt to take you behind the scenes of family law litigation. Like the restaurant, Babbo, family law litigation is expensive. In fact, you could probably eat at Babbo two or three times a week for a year, wine included, for the price of a family law trial and still have money left over for a gym membership to work off your weight gain. Sure, your spouse may be ordered to pay a portion of your attorney fees and costs, but that money has to come from somewhere.
Forget what you see on television. Those fast paced television trials have no place in family law, where a child custody evaluation can take as long as eight months. Due to crowded court calendars, family law trials rarely proceed day to day. Trials can be spread out over weeks, even months.
The alternative to expensive litigation is mediation. Ironically, the only way people reach a resolution during litigation is when they see that is better than the continuing conflict. In mediation, an experienced mediator will help the parties identify their positions, interests and commonality and delineate the gaps between them, thereby helping them reach a mutaully acceptable agreement. Mediation is also available for post-divorce matters, such as modifying custody, visitation and/or support.
With the cost of mediation about two thirds less than litigation, a successfully mediated divorce or post-divorce matter should leave you with enough money for dinner at Babbo, and your child’s college education.