Part 3 of 3
Before we take another rung up the ladder of the law’s litigiousness I’d like to reflect on the proximity of Memorial Day and D-Day. I know we honor all of our deceased on Memorial Day and acknowledge the beginning of the end of WWII on D-Day. However, it seems appropriate that these solemn celebrations are only a week apart. Our Pantheon of loved ones and heroes includes family, friends, saviors and unknowns. As we remember and honor them we affirm our own worth.
So far we have discussed ways to completely avoid the legal system. If possible, this is always best. Unfortunately life often places such decisions beyond our control. That’s why systems of law were initiated. No rational person would choose even the simplest legal proceeding over a fair resolution of a dispute without resort to court. But just as sure as youth will fade, life has a way of demanding we sometimes pay tribute to Caesar, or at least to our lawyer. When the once avoidable controversy becomes “un”, that is, after we have ignored a problem as long as we can, is all out legal conflict our only option? No.
Let’s assume the highly unlikely possibility you actually read this column last week. If so, you may recall I suggested attempting to resolve legal problems by first informally talking about them with those who are of the opinion you may be wrong. In other words, no attorneys and certainly no judges should be consulted before a good faith attempt is made to swallow one’s pride and save one’s time and money. However, this may not work.
A reasonable next step is to consult a trusted clergy person or mutual friend. Then perhaps one might consult their family attorney who could give objective advice on whether a letter will suffice or if a lawsuit is necessary.
After all good faith effort has been expended to avoid the angry bowels of the courthouse, all is still not lost. Upon filing suit and the receipt of a response from one’s adversary a judge may order informal, face-to-face meetings where settlement is discussed. If no resolution is reached, early mediation before a trained mediator often helps parties settle their difficulties.
Almost every legal controversy in America is settled by the end of mediation. Therefore, the earlier problems are addressed the more money and time are saved and the less angst is endured.
You might wonder about cases that are settled but which have problems afterwards. Child custody cases are the most frequent to fall in this category but many other cases have on-going agreements which may need maintenance. Such matters as business relationships or injunctions come to mind.
Once again, instead of a first response of resort to court, an informal attempt to talk the matters out may work best for everyone. Of course, the courtroom will always be available if good faith and reason fail.