As a retired Superior Court Family Law Commissioner, I firmly believe that if you can find a way to stay out of court, do so for the following reasons:

  • Time Constraints – The Family Court system is underfunded and understaffed.  Even a relatively simple case can take up to two years to make its way through the system.  More complicated cases take even longer.
  • Cost – If you hire an attorney, which in most cases you should, the ultimate cost can be in the $1,000’s of dollars.  Part of the reason for the high cost is related to the Court’s time constraints such as multiple court appearances, crowded Court calendars, repeated continuances, etc.  Each time your case is continued your attorney has to prepare over again, costing you more fees.  Also, being in the Court system tends to raise the contentiousness of the case dynamics and, thus, the cost.
  • A Judge Makes Major Life Decisions for your Family – The Judge, a stranger in a black robe, will make decisions impacting your family in very important ways.  Orders will be made regarding the custody of your children, your finances, how your property will be divided (or perhaps sold) with only a glimpse into your family’s lives, needs, idiosyncrasies, etc.  You and your partner are much better suited to make decisions that best benefit your family as a whole.
  • Do you Have the Evidence????? – The Family Court is bound by the very strict rules of evidence that apply to all Court cases. Your testimony alone will often not be sufficient without documentary back up proof unless your partner agrees with your testimony.  This is because you both have a vested interest or preference for what the result is so your testimony is not neutral.  For example, you can testify as to the value of your home, but you should also have an appraisal from a licensed real estate appraiser to present to the Court.  
  • Your Relationship Post Judgment – Even though your legal relationship will end, your connection to your children, your friends and your joint history endures.  This is especially true if you have children and/or have been together for a long time.  Graduations, marriages, deaths, etc. will occur that affect both of you.  It is important that you attempt to reach a healthy, long term result. Mediation or Collaborative processes generally result in a much healthier future for you both.

Louise Bayles-Fightmaster, JD is a Collaborative attorney, private judge, and mediator in Sonoma County.  More information in her bio on the “Find A Professional” page.