Well over 90% of our cases are resolved before to trial. Some settle by counsel collaboration or mediation. Others settle the remaining issues in a day long settlement conference with an ex-judge or a very experienced family law practitioner. If there are some issues remaining they are settled by private arbitration under the Revised Uniform Arbitration Act (RCW 7.04A)
Trial or Arbitration becomes necessary when parties cannot agree. Disagreement can result from taking unreasonable positions, from having strong negative feelings that have not been processed, from arrogance, from fear due to domestic violence and a host of other issues. While no one favors the expense of a trial, we are blessed with very skilled family law judges in King County who can decode the issues that cannot be resolved by collaboration or mediation.
Parties who seek principle based outcomes often do better than those seeking specific amounts of money or specific amounts of parenting time. In the literature this is referred to as Principle vs. Position based bargaining. Principles such as “in the best interests of our children” are generally more flexible than positions such as “50% of the residential time”. Divorce and other family conflict is a learning opportunity for all concerned. Initial positions are rarely final positions in the end. Those who seek to learn and grow from expert opinion often have better outcomes in the end.
When reasonable bargaining and mediation fail then it is more cost effective to let a Court or Private Arbitrator decide. Simply speaking if the other side is not willing to agree to an outcome that is within the realm of how the Court will likely rule then neither collaboration nor mediation is likely to be successful. Private arbitrators have the advantage of being able to spend more time on the issues and have more flexible schedules than judges. Trial dates can be delayed for days or weeks when prior cases go longer than planned. This does not happen in a private arbitration. Arbitrators are usually ex-judges or very experienced practitioners so it is unlikely that the outcome will be far from the mark. On the other hand, private arbitrators must bill for their time and the outcomes can be appealed to the Court. If both sides grow to trust the arbitrator then the arbitrator can be used for post divorce problems thereby saving the parties many of the costs of Court.