Mediation, Arbitration or Court? Do people really know what they are getting themselves into with court?

I completed my second year of law school at the beginning of May and last week I assisted Joanna Shaw on a matter at family court. She was acting as an OCL for a child whose parents were negotiating and changing the guidelines of their parenting time. This was my first time in family court and after one experience I immediately questioned why parents want to take matters to court and found that it was an utter waste of time when looking at it through the lens of true resolution. For those of us who take notice of the energy in any room we walk into, the energy in the court room, emanating off parents, weighs on you immensely. Some parents are tense, looking as though they are getting ready to fight. Those that are self-represented, unsure of what is really going on, so clearly emanate confusion and nervousness.

In entering the courthouse in the morning, I was not aware of how little resolution would truly take place. From the time we entered at 9:30am until we left just after 5pm, parenting time was negotiated and “settled” although the matter was far from resolved. A large disadvantage of the court process that parents need to consider is that it is not built for speed. When you have the interests of a child or children in the middle of parents who can’t seem to come to an agreement, choosing a speedy avenue should be an easy choice. Yet so many parents automatically choose the court route. Why? Is it that they do not know about other options available to them? Or is it that their lawyers, for those that are represented, are not presenting them with other, more resolution-focused, options? Whatever the case may be, parents need to be aware that there are other avenues like mediation and arbitration that complement the court process but provide a more efficient alternative.

In my short time with JMS Law so far, they have so clearly adopted a resolution-focused practice where you will always be given solutions and avenues of dispute resolution that are right for you and any child involved. Many clients may believe that they should be pursuing action on every little thing and some lawyers may take that and walk with it for the sake of being retained and the likelihood that in doing so will make them a little bit of money at the end of the day. On the contrary and based on what I know about JMS Law, they will help you view your matter through a bigger picture lens. While you may think your matter should be acted upon, maybe it is not yet the right time or it is not yet worth your money to do so. Alternatively, maybe there are other, less expensive, and more efficient ways to take action; especially if a child or children are involved. Whatever the case may be, parents who are seeking true resolution need to be made aware that going to court is not the only option. For the sake of true resolution, parents should be seeking out family lawyers where those options will be provided to them and where resolution rather than billable hours is prioritized.

– Angela Gray