Wine is aged to potentially improve its quality and to become more palatable to the taster. The length of time necessary to age a wine is influenced by many factors including grape variety, vintage, viticulture practices, wine region and winemaking style. However, age the wine too much, and the wine may turn to vinegar. Similar concepts apply to a family law matter.
Family law matters are often emotional and costly; one or both parties often act on those heightened emotions which can make a matter highly contested and expensive. In this situation, time usually does not improve the quality of the case or the lives of the parties; rather, time is often destructive. As a high conflict case ages, the family remains in that conflict for a longer period of time, and the amount of money spent on legal fees continues to increase. However, if time can be destructive to a family law matter, like wine turning to vinegar, can a family law matter ever age like a good wine? Yes.
Neither the parties, experienced family law lawyers nor judges ever want a family law case to become stagnated; it is too important for people to have the opportunity to move forward with their lives. In fact, the Family Code and the Courts have rules for the management of family law proceedings, to bring cases to resolution in an efficient and timely manner. With that being said, like a fine wine, sometimes time may actually improve the ability of both parties to settle their case. At some point, resolution and moving forward is pleasing to the parties; much like an aged wine is pleasing to the taster. For this to occur, an extraordinary amount of patience is called upon by everyone involved (assuming, of course, that no legal rights are harmed during the passage of time) to wait for the case to properly age.
Thus, the importance of time – or, aging the case – is that when both parties are ready to settle the case, they are often better able to reach compromises because they have each had the time to understand the complexities of their legal and financial matters, and are better prepared to understand and visualize their life post-divorce. The parties become better equipped to make a business decision, without the interference of intensified emotions, to conclude their matter.
This aging process does not mean that years should pass until a family law case is resolved. There exists a fine line between the need to properly age a case so settlement is palatable to the parties, and when the case has become unpalatable to the point of bringing financial and emotional demise to the parties and their children.
Much like a winemaker monitors the maturity of grapes to ensure their quality and to determine the correct time for harvest, an experienced family law attorney helps to guide a client in monitoring their own case to determine when it is, indeed ripe for settlement.