Several sources have reported that Deion Sanders has been ordered to pay over $10,500 in child support and $3,500 mortgage payments. The shocking part is that he’s been ordered to pay over a quarter million in attorney fees incurred just since April 30, 2012. In three weeks of attorney fees these parties blew what most of my clients will not earn in a year. There has, perhaps, never been a clearer example of the high price of contempt and animosity in a family law case. If you do the math, Deion could pay support for his children for 18 months at the rate his wife’s attorneys are charging him for three weeks of litigation.
Very few have estates that justify representation and litigation on this scale, but many people fall into exactly these kinds of disputes and waste money just like this. A family who wants to fight all the way like Deion and Pilar will pay their attorneys well over $20,000. If the couple wanted to hire expert attorneys for the children or the finances it could easily reach $40,000. Despite the incredible windfall that is for myself, my opposing counsel, and the staff and experts involved, it will, in all likelihood, destroy the family’s finances, their children’s college fund, and their hopes of co-parenting their children under normal and healthy circumstances.
Compare this result to the Collaborative Law process or Alternative Dispute Resolution: Clients might spend one quarter of that amount up front, but they’ll spend it on reaching the best possible settlement. A Collaborative Law Settlement is one where full disclosure makes the financial situation clear, where independent experts, paid for by both parties, give neutral advice on how to communicate effectively, co-parent the children, and divide the finances so everyone gets what they deserve and what they can actually afford to keep. When the parties agree, even outside of the Collaborative Process, they are not stuck before a judge who is tired of the drama, and who just wants to chop everything down the middle according to statutory presumptions so he doesn’t have to hear anymore complaining.
Sometimes people are unreasonable, sometimes they are violent and litigation is the only remedy, but if so it should always be a last resort that only occurs after people make a good faith effort to resolve their dispute through collaborative law, mediation, or arbitration. I am truly and deeply committed to encouraging people to settle in family law, even if it means I don’t get to bill my clients as much. I will fight hard for my clients if that’s what they want or if that is what the situation calls for, but I know firsthand how destructive that fight can be when compared to amicable alternatives. People owe it to themselves to consult with lawyers who are comfortable with Alternative Dispute Resolution, and who are happy to avoid a litigation strategy that could cost their clients thousands at the expense of a that family’s well-being.