Settlement: It’s all about the Money, Money, Money

Should you settle your case? Do you want to settle your case? Is settling actually worth it? These are all valid questions both clients and attorneys alike ask themselves as a case progresses. Whether the case involves a monetary settlement or something non-financial, like custody, these questions are important to consider and revisit throughout your entire case.

It is no secret that litigation is expensive. Filing fees and other costs with the Court can be financially burdensome. If you have an attorney, you have to remember that the longer the case proceeds, the more likely you will have larger attorney fees (though a good attorney will do their best to stay affordable).

No matter the type of case, you should ask yourself how much you are willing to pay your attorney. When first meeting with an attorney, you should have a frank discussion about their retainer requirements, fees, and payment schedules. Ask them to evaluate how much the case could cost, whether you work with them on an hourly basis, a situation-by-situation basis, or if you expect them to complete the entire case. Evaluate your goals and do a costs-benefits analysis. Do you sink $10,000 into a case when you are only going to get $7,000 out of it? Sometimes you will, sometimes you won’t, but you are the only one who can make that decision. Try to get as much information to help you make the best decision for your situation.

Another point to keep in mind is the longer a case goes, the more opportunity it has to change, so it is important to continue evaluating. Maybe what started as a simple divorce turns into a 5 year litigation case, and now you are moving towards the discovery phase. Discovery can cost thousands of dollars without making forward progress or moving the case along. Do you own a business or have large investments? You may be required to enlist an accounting expert to review your financial information (and maybe even your current partner’s). Again, this can cost you thousands of dollars and take away from your overall settlement.

The important point to remember is what you are trying to achieve by litigating your case. Are you trying to achieve a 50/50 split in your divorce or a 50/50 custody agreement because you believe that is fair? Or are you trying to ‘take someone for everything’? Are you approaching your case with a punishing mentality? If so, consider where this is worth your time or money. If you are agreeing to extend the litigation (and yes, every extension really is a choice, even if you do not perceive it this way), it is important to understand your reasoning for extending litigation.

When I begin a case with a client, I like to first discuss their goals and strategize ways in which I can make them a reality. It is my personal philosophy that everyone is happier when a case reaches an organic conclusion rather than having the Court force a settlement. I ask them to reach for the stars and think of everything they could ever want, but I also ask them to identify their bare minimum- what they would be willing to walk away with. I consider everything between to be the area of negotiation, as you should feel comfortable accepting an offer falling within these parameters.

I will never force a client to settle before they are ready, but I am honest with my clients about the costs. As an attorney, it is my responsibility to keep my clients informed of their options so they are able to make the best possible decision.

 

This article was written by attorney and owner of JD Law, Jennifer S. Dickquist.

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