Know When to Settle: A Cautionary Tale about the Cost of Litigation

In the midst of a legal dispute, agreeing to mediate or settle can feel like a loss. In addition to legal fees, litigation can have hidden costs in time, emotional energy, unwanted publicity, and prolonged uncertainty.

Cooper v. Keto is a recent case in which the parties came to realize that litigation consumed more of their resources than their conflict justified. See Cooper v. Keto, Mass. App. Ct. No. 12‑P‑770. June 26, 2013 (Brown, concurring).

In Cooper, a father contested whether his divorce judgment required him to contribute to his son’s college education. He argued that he had not approved the son’s selected school or program of study. The court, however, found that the father was aware of the son’s studies, and had acquiesced to them by failing to object during the son’s admission process and first year of study. He was thus required to pay about $90,000 of his son’s educational expenses.

However, the father was also required to pay legal fees totaling more than $340,000 —his own bill and that of the mother.

Concurring Justice Brown wrote:

[T]he father has acknowledged that the costs associated with defending the action might better have been spent on the child’s college education.  Litigation should be the last option, not the first.  To that end, it is often beneficial to the parties, and counsel in advising their clients, to step back and take stock of what the case is about, what has gone on before, and what may lie ahead.  In devising the judicial playbook, one should not forget the pocketbook.

Id. This was a difficult divorce, and the relationship between the father and mother was strained. After the fact, however, they regretted spending so much time, energy, and expense on fighting over this young man’s education instead of supporting it.

There are many things to consider in deciding whether to settle or go to court. The attorneys at Hutchins Law, P.C. are experienced and successful litigators, but they also know how to settle a case to their clients’ advantage. Contact them today for help making a wise legal choice that is right for you.

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