Often people try to settle their divorce before engaging lawyers in their case. Most are motivated to keep lawyers out of the process in order to save money, but some are also trying to be amicable so that co-parenting will be smoother and believe that lawyers will muddy the relationships. They anticipate that they will settle the case and then just hire an attorney to draft the paperwork for the settlement.
While many couples are able to reach agreements on their own, few actually know what all they need to reach agreement about. Many are not good negotiators and even more make their divorce case higher conflict during negotiations because of distrust or overzealous negotiating by one or both spouses. And, settlement negotiations improperly made are not protected from admissibility and are often used against the spouse that made the offer.
As with anything, knowledge is power
It is difficult to negotiate a settlement without information as to what you need to settle. Most people know that they need to decide what to do with a house and their stuff, but they do not normally know about the following areas:
- community property vs. separate property
- reimbursement claims that are owed
- comingled accounts or assets and first money out rules
- titling issues – both before and after divorce
- best ways to deal with joint accounts
- how to handle debt with third party creditors
- the best ways to divide retirement, stock options and restricted stock and how to deal with vesting issues
- how to protect enforcement issues
And when it comes to children’s issues to be resolved parents often overlook the following issues:
- passport issues
- international travel and the Hague Convention
- declaration of home state
- geographic restrictions and designation of school districts and how these impact the future of both parties
- the rights and duties of conservators and whether those duties are joint, independent or by agreement
- long term issues that arise with parenting plans
- rights to claim federal benefits, deductions or credits
- extracurricular activities
- college planning
- rights of first refusal and how they impact each party
- Holiday Possession for nonstandard possession schedules
It is best to hire a lawyer before settlement negotiations to help you determine what issues you need to settle and to “coach” you through the process. An experienced Divorce Lawyer has seen most things that can and do go wrong with settlements and can guide you through the process. You can determine whether it is best for you to continue the discussions with your spouse directly (but armed with information) or whether it would be best to take a step back and have the lawyer make the settlement offer. Keep in mind, you do not have to tell your spouse that you are getting legal advice while negotiating.
Every situation is different, but an experienced Divorce Lawyer knows the pitfalls and can help you evaluate the situation. Knowledge is Power and having a knowledgeable Divorce Lawyer helping you construct a settlement offer and guide settlement negotiations is the most efficient way to save money in the divorce process.
Sometimes you are too close to the situation to be able to negotiate effectively and not everyone is good at negotiating. Ending a relationship, especially if there are children involved, is an emotional process and not just a breach of contract. Often, the parties lack trust in each other and settlement offers are viewed as threats and insults. Often discussions between the parties can get off the topic of resolution and turn to why the divorce is happening in the first place. These are normally nonproductive attempts at settling the case. Most people are dealing with the reality that their marriage has failed and the blame game is dominating their thoughts. Nonproductive communications about why the divorce is happening can actually increase negative emotions which usually increases the cost of the divorce significantly. Having a lawyer conduct the settlement negotiations can help lower the emotions so that settlement is possible. People whose emotions are high rarely settle. The emotions have to be lowered to get into a settlement state of mind. Keep in mind, an experienced Divorce Lawyer does this every day and they are good at what they do. If you hire an experienced Divorce Lawyer they will work on resolution and not increasing the conflict.
Whether you are trying to save money or trying to remain amicable for future co-parenting, hiring an experienced Divorce Lawyer gives you the knowledge to effectively settle your case. Call us at 214-265-7630 to schedule a divorce consultation today with an experienced Divorce Lawyer.