The Los Angeles Times reported the news as to the Mel Gibson and Oksana Grigorieva settlement. Gibson and Grigorieva had been involved in a nasty and escalating family law case involving claims of domestic violence, the release of tapes to the media where Mr. Gibson reportedly was caught up in angry ranting, claims that Grigorieva was an unfit mother and therefore should have restricted child custody rights, etc. Mr. Gibson and Ms. Grigorieva were never married however they had a child together therefore the case came before a family law judge regarding custody and child support issues.
As a San Diego Certified Family Law Specialist attorney, my office has found that settlement skills are just that - techniques that are learned. There are many conferences, handbooks, and programs which specifically teach settlement skills. In California family law, the specific legal effort to settle a case and to avoid litigation is known as "alternative dispute resolution". How did this case, between Mel and Oksana, which started out so conflicted, with so much anger, result in a quick settlement which allow for Oksana's use of one of Mr. Gibson's home (to raise their child), and a reported case settlement of $750,000 to Oksana? How did this case head towards resolution out of court when cases such as the divorce between Jamie and Frank McCourt continue to return to court with one contested motion after another?
I am told by settlement experts that a case does not settle until both sides of the case are highly motivated to end the dispute. I have seen that some cases settle for the right reasons and some do not. For example, in a child custody case, the issue of the child's welfare must be examined prior to a settlement. Businesses and property need to be appraised. Support should be based on an examination of earnings. Settlements which come about for the wrong reason (for example, one party is bullied into the agreement), often come back into the court systems more conflicted than previous to the settlement.