Contrary to popular belief (partly attributed to movies and television shows), only a small percentage of cases actually make it to trial. The rest of the cases are either dropped by one of the parties, or ultimately settled.
The parties going through a family law case (divorce, domestic partnership dissolution, child custody & support) can opt to go into mediation, arbitration or even private judging.
Mediation is becoming increasingly popular because the two parties can decide the outcome of their case. However, this requires a great deal of cooperation, and compromise. Mediation can be much cheaper than litigation because it can be done with a mediator and the parties (without the involvement of individual attorneys), but if the parties are spending a lot of time at mediation with no movement, then it may be a fruitless experience. Mediation can be particularly rewarding when there are children involved and the couple can agree to co-parent through a much more cooperative way. If something significant changes in the future, the party may be able to return to the mediator to change the previous agreement with limited expenses.
Two people can agree to resolve their case by submitting it to an arbitrator, who would make the ultimate and binding decision. The benefit to this process is that the parties still retain some control over their case while at the same time eliminating some unnecessary costs. However, because the decision is binding, it may not work for many people.
Private judging could be beneficial to a high profile couple or case because the information is kept out of the public forum. Unlike a judge in the superior court, the parties would have to pay for their private judge, who may charge upwards of $500 an hour. This is in addition to their representation and other costs involved. Private judging is becoming more and more popular in certain counties (such as Santa Clara County), but still remains less popular in others.
If you’d like to discuss the options in your divorce or child custody dispute, you should call the attorneys of Howard & Fei, LLP at 510.464.8083 to see how we can help you.