Family Law Disputes Cry Out for Mediated Settlements - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 53, No. 2
The author is an attorney in general practice in Florence, Miss., as well as a mediator and arbitrator.
He is a member of the family law section of the Mississippi Bar as well as its ADR committee.
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
Lawyers who practice family law know how important true compromise can be. A worthy objective in most domestic disputes is to reach an early compromise settlement, for a host of honorable and obvious reasons. Lawyers also know that in time some agreements erode, to
say the least. Everyone in the business of family law knows that trial results don’t always last either. We have all seen situations when one parent so bitterly resents a trial-court adjudication of child support or custody that he or she expends great energy and resources undermining the decision, always to the detriment of the children. But why after a settlement? Why do we see tragedy so often following a compromise, after the lawyers saved their clients from the uncertainties of a trial and obtained results that the parties agreed to in writing? Professional mediators know the answer if they have heard the cry.
A good family law practitioner understands that irrational or just plain mean behavior is less likely when there is real client acceptance of the ultimate resolution of a dispute of any kind. As a chancerycourt judge, I knew that no amount of wisdom and fairness assured the parties’ compliance with, much less their acceptance of, the court’s “final” judgment. In fact, suits to modify courtordered divorce judgments (and previous modifications) frequently result from non-acceptance, regardless of whether the terms were right or wrong, good or bad, big or small.
Without real acceptance even compromise settlements don’t really settle some things. Professionals must try for genuine client acceptance before we can hope for truly final resolution of most disputes, but this is tough duty. Lawyers need all the help they can get. Mediators need to let them know where they can get it.