What I have sensed for a few years has now been corroborated by Gregg Herman, who chairs the American Bar Association Family Law Section. He says, “Divorce has become far less litigious in that more cases are settled than litigated.” The members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers have noticed the same phenomenon. In a poll last year, 58 percent of its members indicated that more of their divorce cases over the past five years were settled without trial. Only 12 percent said they were resolving fewer cases without trial. James Hennenhoefer, the president of the Academy, believes that there is a clear preference especially among middle-income clients to resolve cases with less contention, in part to cut down on costs.
Now I am not suggesting that nasty divorce cases don’t exist. They do. In my practice, custody/parenting issues still top the list of hotly disputed areas, followed by spousal support and division of retirement accounts. The general acceptance of shared parenting arrangements has helped lessen custody litigation. Nonetheless, the level of acrimony of the parties can drastically affect both the tone and contentiousness of the divorce proceedings.
The lawyers in our law firm have adopted the American Bar Association Family Law Section’s Standards of Professionalism and Civility. Click here to read them. Even level headed reasonable people have a tendency when going through a divorce to become emotional and often times try to punish their spouse or adopt the “win at all cost” attitude. Experienced divorce attorneys should try to help guide clients through the process by adopting a constructive not destructive approach. Generally, there is never a true “winner” in a divorce. Just like an experienced tour guide would protect his charge in an unfamiliar and potentially dangerous jungle safari, so too must the lawyer commit himself to counsel and protect his client’s interest and usher them skillfully from the initial conference through the final hearing.
The statistics and quotes appeared in the June 2008 ABA Journal article, “Still no Bed of Roses” written by Jill Schachner Chanen.
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.