Negotiating a Fair Settlement: Tips From Experienced Divorce Attorneys

For most couples, it is stressful and emotionally painful to go through a divorce. This stress can become especially overwhelming during the divorce negotiation process.

Even if a couple initially disagrees on the division of assets and other issues, most couples can reach their goals through negotiation so they will not have to see the inside of a courtroom during their divorce. Reports show that only about 3 to 4 percent of divorces are settled in family law courts.

The attorneys at Brown Family Law have many years of experience in helping individuals negotiate divorce settlements. In this article, we will offer guidance on how to negotiate a fair settlement with your spouse.

What Are Divorce Negotiations?

Many couples who decide to end their marital relationship think they only need to sign some paperwork. Unfortunately, the reality is that the divorce process is much more complicated than filing a few documents. Divorce negotiation involves discussing with your spouse how to divide your marital assets and debts.

During the negotiation process, an agreement must be reached on decisions such as:

  • The division of marital property
  • How you and your spouse will split debt acquired during your relationship
  • Whether a spouse will be paid alimony and, if so, how much

If you have children, the process of ending your marriage is much more complex. You will need to agree on the important matters of custody, visitation, and child support.

The legal divorce process can be challenging, to say the least. When most couples first begin negotiating, it is common to feel overwhelmed by the number of decisions that need to be made. Fortunately, a good attorney can provide options for couples who need advice during the settlement talk process.

Divorce Negotiation Options

There are various ways to come to a mutually agreeable divorce settlement. Divorce negotiations are different for every couple and their unique situation. Some couples can settle things just between the two of them, but many couples need the advice of a lawyer and/or a neutral third party.

Consider the following examples of negotiation situations:

  • Uncontested divorce: For some couples, the decision to get a divorce is mutual, and the two spouses are on good terms. If a couple is on the same page, they may be able to sit down at the kitchen table and discuss how to divide everything without outside help.
  • Mediation: In this process, a neutral third party serves as a mediator and guides the spouses toward an agreement that is fair for both parties. Mediation is a helpful way for couples to find practical solutions that work best for them and their children.
  • Collaborative divorce: During this form of dispute resolution, each spouse has their own attorney. Collaborative divorce attorneys help their individual clients attain a reasonable amount without going to court litigation. This type of arrangement only works if both marriage mates have put their anger aside and are committed to finding an amicable solution.

Making a Success of Divorce Settlement Negotiations

For most people, negotiating divorce settlements is complicated. This may be especially true if you are discussing emotionally charged topics such as spousal support and child custody.

Even though it can be challenging, it is in the best interests of both parties to reach a divorce settlement agreement outside of family law court. A settlement agreement allows both spouses to save money and time by avoiding having to litigate their divorce case before a judge.

To set yourself up for success, we are sharing some divorce negotiation tips that our family law attorneys have used to help our clients.

Understand your finances

Your divorce lawyer may advise you not to begin negotiating with your spouse until you thoroughly understand your financial situation.

Your finances include marital assets and debts, such as:

  • Mortgages
  • Credit card balances
  • Bank accounts
  • Stocks
  • Investment properties
  • 401k plans
  • Household items
  • Vehicles
  • Health insurance policies

Once you have a complete understanding of the money, assets, and debt that have been acquired during your marriage, you can use this information to determine what you want to achieve.

For example, you may want to keep the house, but you will need to determine whether you can afford to pay the mortgage and upkeep on the property.

As another example, after analyzing your financial situation, you may realize you and your ex have acquired more debts in your marriage than you thought. As a result, you may need more money; it may be in your best interest to sell what you can and use the money to pay off debt so you both can move forward in life.

Know your legal rights

It is important for you to understand your legal rights and obligations before you begin negotiating a divorce settlement. Familiarize yourself with the local laws applicable to your divorce case. Each state has its own specific laws regarding divorce, division of assets, and child custody.

When you have a family law attorney representing you, your attorney can explain the laws that affect your situation. If there are children involved, it is especially important to have a thorough understanding of the law relating to child custody and child support.

Gather relevant documents

Another piece of advice many divorce lawyers give their clients is to gather all relevant financial documents. It is a point in your favor to do this ahead of time so you are not scrambling to find paperwork after negotiations have begun. A lawyer can help you gather relevant documentation.

Necessary documents can include:

  • Bank statements
  • W-2s or other tax documents
  • Pay stubs
  • Investments
  • Retirement plans

Focus on your financial goals

A divorce attorney will advise a person to clearly understand his or her financial goals before beginning negotiations to attain these. Unfortunately, some people go into negotiations with the short-sighted approach of simply stopping their former partner from “winning.”

Instead of focusing solely on the present, family law lawyers recommend considering your long-term goals and how you want your daily life to be after your divorce.

For example, is your goal to stay in your marital home to provide a secure and familiar setting for your children? If so, a good attorney will strive to move negotiations forward in a way that makes it possible for you to buy out your former marriagemate’s share of the house.

Be aware of your spouse’s financial goals

Just as you have goals you are trying to reach through negotiation talks, so does your ex. If you know the financial outcome your ex wants to achieve through settlement talks, you are in a better position to negotiate.

Do not abruptly dismiss anything your former partner says he or she wants in the divorce. If you do, negotiations could stall before even beginning. Many family law attorneys would agree that you may be able to use what your ex wants in the divorce settlement to your advantage.

For example, if you know that your spouse really wants to keep the boat, you could use this information to negotiate for something you are hoping to get in the divorce.

Communicate respectfully throughout the divorce process

Understandably, during a divorce, your emotions may run high. Keeping them in check during negotiations can be challenging, but your attorney may advise you to keep calm and remain civil towards your former partner.

Being polite and communicating respectfully with your spouse can increase your chances of settling your divorce out of court.

Remain transparent

We understand that it may be tempting to withhold information from your husband or wife to use as leverage during negotiations. However, divorce attorneys advise against it.

Generally, the truth will eventually come out. It is in your best interests to be open and honest about your financial situation, your ability to comply with the parenting plan, and other matters.

It is important that you provide accurate information when negotiating with your spouse. Doing so helps build trust and ensures you achieve the best possible result in your divorce settlement.

Consult a divorce lawyer for divorce advice

You should not attempt negotiations without first consulting a divorce lawyer. You increase the chance of reaching a fair and reasonable settlement deal if you have a skilled lawyer on your side from the start.

A lawyer with experience handling divorce cases knows the law and can provide legal guidance throughout this stressful process. A divorce attorney can also prepare you for what will be involved.

If negotiations with the other side fail, your attorney can take your case to trial and present it before a judge.

Our Family Law Attorneys Are Here to Help

A successful divorce settlement deal takes careful consideration, effective communication, and a resolve to find mutually beneficial solutions. Your settlement goals can be achieved with a knowledgeable and skilled divorce lawyer by your side.

Brown Family Law’s divorce lawyers have a proven track record of negotiating successful settlement deals for those we represent. Let us help you finalize your divorce in a way that leaves you feeling confident and secure in your financial future.

For personalized advice about your legal options, schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team today. Contact us 24/7 at 801-685-9999 to talk to a live representative.

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