Most people cannot image coming to any type of agreement with their worst enemy; their soon to be ex-spouse. However, coming to a compromise and settling your case is probably the most important thing you can do to make the divorce process easier.
Many divorce clients come to me with an initial scorched earth mentality. They are not thinking clearly, and their emotions are clouding their judgment. This is the time when the objective advice of an experienced family law attorney is critical. Clients in this position need to know 1) the law, 2) how judges in their jurisdiction tend to apply that law to the client’s facts, 3) what other options there are to litigation, such as mediation, 4) the estimated costs of pursing a particular course of action (such as the fee for legal services), 5) what a realistic “win” looks like for them, and 6) they need to do a cost-benefit analysis to ensure that the costs of a plan of action do not outweigh the benefits they are likely to receive. Only an experienced family law attorney can effectively provide you with the advice you need to make these important decisions.
What is a good Settlement? The answer to this question is case-by-case, client-by-client. Ultimately, your goals, if reasonable, should be met by settlement. The focus here is what are your goals? It may be that you want primary physical custody of the children, perhaps you want a larger percentage of the retirement fund, or maybe you just want a clean break and split everything 50/50. The idea is that the client’s goals should be met but the client must also be willing to compromise so that the other party feels that their own needs and goals are being met. Frequently settlements are win-win situations. Once an agreement is reached through negotiations, mediation, or other discussions, and both sides understand what the other side wants; your attorney can draft a Separation Agreement that puts in writing the terms of your agreement. At the final divorce hearing, which may be up to a year later, a Judge will frequently review the agreement and incorporate it into the final divorce decree.
Sometimes settlement is not an option. For instance, if one party is unreasonable, and refuses to settle the case, then you will typically have to go before a judge to have the judge make the decisions. The path to litigation is frequently expensive and mentally draining on the participants. During litigation both parties are constantly confronted with uncomfortable legal issues from their spouse. This leads to even more resentment and an impractical entrenching of positions. Settlement, when possible, saves more than time and money, it may also hasten the healing that both parties need to move on with their lives.
Pro-Tips when it comes to Settlements:
1) Always have an attorney draft and review the agreement prior to you signing anything.
2) If the other side has an attorney you should get an attorney.
3) Don’t try to do your divorce “on the cheap” by not consulting attorneys. Spending money on an attorney up front will save you serious disappointment and money in the future.