Litigate or Collaborate?

Family in Crisis


Do Different Elections Lead to Different Outcomes?

Facts of the Divorce

                John was upset.  He worked way to many hours and had nothing to show for it.  Mary worked 30 hours a week and was primarily taking care of the children.  When John got the mail he saw the balance on their credit card.  That was the last straw for John.  He wanted to get divorced at that moment.

                “I can’t believe Mary.  Mom was right.  I married the wrong woman.  I need to get divorced.”  John really wanted a divorce.  He was starting to hang out at work with Jacki Sparks, a fellow employee at work.

Choosing Litigation

John hires and attorney and runs to the courthouse.  John wants to be heard by the judge at the courthouse.   John is angry and his lawyer tells him that he has a good shot “winning his case” and getting custody of the kids and getting :

Mary is unfit.  She’s not a good mom.  She spends her time charging and charging expenses on our card.   I am a good person judge and I don’t deserve this kind of treatment.  I think that I am the best parent to take care of these kids!  I can work 80 hours and be their primary parent.  NO problem.

The Judge listens to the parents and asks John “What is your plan to take care of the children?  If you are going to be working 80 hours, I don’t know how I’m awarding you the right to establish the primary residence of the children.   I’m ordering that John pays child support, is given standard access to the children. Since this is a custody case I’m ordering a social study and I’m ordering you both to mediation prior to trial.

John tries to talk to Mary who walks away from him, saying  “Unfit?  Not a good mom. You’re a joke John.”   The next few months are filled with John and Mary screaming at each other in front of the children.    The parties meet at mediation and John concedes custody, unable to continue to pay the high cost of his attorney.



Choosing Mediation (OR other Collaborative Models)


John and Mary decide to go to mediation with their attorneys.  The mediator places both parents in separate rooms FAR APART from Mary and starts talking to John.

John:   “I can’t stand Mary.  She’s not a good parent and I want custody and I want what’s mind.”

The mediator looks at John, pauses and says,

Mediator:  “John what do you mean?”

John:    “Just look at this credit card bill.  She can’t manage finances and she’s wrecking my credit.  I can’t get out from under my debt.  She’s ruining my life!”

Mediator:  Lets look at the bills.  Lets look at the past 12 months and see what’s going on.

Mediator:  Well I looked at the bills and help me out here

John:  Why are you taking sides?  Can’t you see that Mary is the worst parent on the planet.  I want my kids and I want my stuff.

John’s attorney:  John, the mediator isn’t taking sides, he’s doing his job.  You agreed to mediate this matter.  The mediator just wants you to focus on what’s important.

Mediator:  John, Telling Mary she’s a bad parent PROBABLY isn’t going to make her want to reach an agreement today.  Just for today, lets focus on the issues what we have.

John:   Ok well I’m looking at the bills, what’s this charge to Walmart for $3000.00.

The mediator leaves, John is angry and bitter.

Mediator meets with Mary.  After a long discussion, Mary says:

Mary:   That $3,000.00 was to buy his kids a smart tv for Christmas.  This whole charge thing is an excuse to leave our marriage.  I know something’s wrong.  John’s been acting weird and blocking me from his phone.  I think he’s having an affair.

Mediator goes back to John:   John the $3,000.00 you are complaining about was to buy the kids a tv.  I looked at the charges and I don’t understand your position.

John:  (Acting nervously) Well I really want out of the marriage, I met someone else.

Mediation continues and John stops talking about Mary being a bad parent, focusing on how to deal with the actual issues at hand.






            Was John informed PRIOR to walking into court and firing accusations at Mary?


How was John and Mary’s relationship going to be after litigation?


What were the immediate benefits of mediation?







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