Monday, May 15, 2017

Do You Really Want to Settle?

At the start of a divorce, some people think about whether they should try to settle the case or just get ready to fight.  Usually, those people have not been through a divorce and don't know how to settle and don't know the costs of fighting.  In this post, I would like to focus on settling.  The costs of fighting are enormous and the result is not worth the cost in my view.

Why settle?  There are lots of reasons.
  • You can get the case resolved now, rather than letting it drag out for a year or more.
  • Save money.  It costs much less to focus on settling.  Fighting involves having extra hearings, filing a lot of  motions and doing discovery.  Those actions involve a lot of attorney time and fees and they get everyone stirred up. After all of the fighting is done, the parties usually end up settling, but with much less to be divided.
  • You can focus on getting what you really need or value, rather than just ending up with an arbitrary percentage share of everything.
  • There's a chance both parties will be satisfied with the result. 
So, if you're interested in the idea of settling, what can you do to improve your chances for success?
  • Be prepared.  Think ahead about how you want to end up.  Think about how to persuade your spouse to agree to what you want. Gather documents that you will need to negotiate.  Do your homework and come to meetings prepared to discuss the topics that are scheduled.
  • Be open-minded.  There is more than one way to do things.  Be able to consider other alternatives than the one you favor.
  • Work with an attorney.  In a divorce, you are dividing all the family's assets and liabilities.  You are often making plans for the children for the next 10 to 15 years. You need to have an experienced professional to help you figure out your options and make the best decisions.
  • Try the Collaborative process and work with a neutral financial professional (FP) and neutral therapist (MHP).  The FP provides expert assistance to you in handling the property issues.  As well has helping put together a parenting plan when there are children involved, the MHP helps manage the joint meetings to improve communication between the parties. You know how easy it is to get angry at your spouse, or for your spouse to get angry with you, when you are discussing important matters. The MHP is very effective in keeping the peace.
  • Talk often with your attorney.  If you are concerned that the Collaborative process will be, or has become, too stressful, discuss the situation with your attorney.  An experienced Collaborative attorney can help reassure you and suggest actions that can help.
  • Focus on the important goals.  Obviously, some things are more important than others.  Be willing to trade off some issues or other things.
  • Remember the importance of helping your spouse also "win", so you have a "win-win" situation.  Not only does that increase the chances for success, but it will make the post-divorce relationship much better.
For most professionals who work in the family law field, and for most people who have been through a divorce, the choice between fighting or settling is pretty obvious.  Hopefully, if you are facing that decision, you will choose the course that is best for you.