Which to do, settlement vs. contested hearing?

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If your goals are reasonable under the totality of circumstances, if you do not overly insult the other party or parent, if that other party or parent is also reasonable in her/his goals and if she/he does not overly insult you, either, then it is very possible that your case can be resolved through confi­dential settlement negotiations:

  • Mediators may be involved, or the negotiations may be directly between the parties or attorneys or any combination thereof.

  • Sometimes a case is only partially settled, and a trial is required upon the unresolved issues.
  • Sometimes a situation is settled just before the contested trial or Court hearing begins, or after the hearing has begun.

  • The Rules of Colorado Evidence, Rule 408, provides that what goes on in settlement discussions is confidential and generally may not be used by either party or his/her attorney against the other.

  • Additional rules of confidentiality pertain to Mediation.

  • And the Colorado Revised Statutes, Section 14-10-112, which part of Colorado’s Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act, encourages parties and parents to enter into Separation Agreements “to promote the amicable settlement of disputes ….”  If these Agreements, including a Parenting Plan if there are children, are properly prepared and mutually agreed, then the Court should enter them as its Orders in your Family Law case.  Be forewarned, however, as the Court is increasingly required to independently determine that neither party is strong-arming the other.

Please take note the number of “if’s” above.  Settlement is a delicate process of give and take, and it only takes one party or parent to prevent resolution.  Both need to realize that settlement affords them an opportunity to reach better decisions than are often made by a Judge or Magis­trate at trial, and avoid some of the financial and emotional costs of litigation.  Both need to see the advantage to re-defining how their particular passage through Family Law shall be.