A High Conflict Divorce is a divorce where the parties are essentially at war and use their lawyers and the court system as their weapons. The parties typically recognize (or are told) very early in the process that waging this type of “war” will be very expensive. They don’t care. A recent article discusses some of the traits common to high conflict divorce.
- The High Cost of High Conflict Divorce. Substantial savings can be had by choosing an alternative dispute resolution method – such as mediation – rather than litigation. The Associated Press has reported that high conflict litigation costs an average of $77,746. Mediating a high conflict case, rather than litigating it, has an average cost of $6,600.
- High Conflict cases have a higher rate of violence. Of course, not all high conflict cases involve violence. But violence is more common in high conflict cases than in cases where the parties are able to rationally discuss the issues that come up in a divorce case (time-sharing, child support, asset/debt division, alimony, etc.).
- Mediation is more appropriate than Litigation for High Conflict cases. High conflict cases often result because there are either (a) so many issues that need to be resolved, or (2) issues that seemingly have no middle ground (such as issues involving children). Other than the cost savings, mediation allows the parties to design an agreement that suits many (but not all) of their needs. In my experience, parties will spend much more time at a mediation discussing how to design a settlement than the judge will spend making decisions about their case. It’s not that the judges don’t care, it’s that they are so busy they simply don’t have the time to give your case the same amount of thought that you can give it at a mediation. Also, there are some things a judge would never order after a trial, but the parties can do by agreement.