In every divorce, the spouses are asked to work out as many of the marital separation details as they possibly can, cooperatively and amicably. This is the negotiation of the divorce and it can be challenging depending upon the issues and the personalities involved. Asset and debt division, child custody and support, visitation, and spousal maintenance are some of the matters raised and hopefully resolved during negotiations. The optimum result of negotiation is the separation agreement which, assuming the Court approves it, is included in the divorce decree and binds the parties.
If you are thinking about dissolving your marriage or are already in the process of a divorce, we have a question for you. Are you prepared to negotiate a divorce settlement? Here are 10 tips to guide you when negotiating a separation agreement with your spouse.
Don’t feel obligated to rush toward settlement on the very first offer from the other party. Give yourself enough time to think through the consequences of your acceptance of the offer, and then respond accordingly. The well-constructed counteroffer is the lynchpin of good negotiating.
Emotions often run hot in a divorce, and that is to be expected with a shared personal history. So when tempers start influencing settlement discussions, take a break and try again later when you are both calm and cool-headed. Adding fuel to the fire could make matters much worse and certainly more expensive. Every time the parties’ attorneys are involved to manage disputes, the pool of family resources gets tapped a little more.
Before you start negotiating the division of property, make sure you have a complete inventory of your marital assets and debts with valuations. Start with factual information about the property you own together and what it is worth. Where you negotiate from there is entirely up to you.
List what is essential to your quality of life and be resistant to compromise on those points. Don’t cave in easily on what you believe is important to maintain your lifestyle and happiness. Companion animals are important for many people, especially for children of divorce. But certain items of personal property can be important, too. For example, you may need the most dependable vehicle because you commute daily to work. Don’t jeopardize your job security by giving in easily on the more reliable vehicle.
Don’t be recalcitrant to punish the other party or drag out negotiations. Give reasonable settlement offers the consideration they deserve, and save your challenges for the unreasonable offers.
Look out for your own interests, there is much at stake in a divorce. Being lackadaisical can negatively affect your financial future and the quality of life you and your children will enjoy going forward.
Don’t let guilt or a sense of fault impede your negotiating skills. Unless you have a covenant marriage, the issue of fault is not a consideration. Even if you believe you were entirely responsible for the failure of your marriage, you need to focus on negotiating a fair settlement for yourself.
You may be depressed or disengaged emotionally today, but hold out for a fair division. Don’t jeopardize your emotional and financial stability in the future by giving everything away. If you need help from a divorce counselor, let your attorney know that you are having difficulties and get the support you need.
The spouses own an undivided one-half interest in all of the marital property. Always be mindful that these divorce negotiations are intended to result in a fair agreement. That is, an arrangement in which both parties’ interests are recognized, represented, and protected.
Decide what you really want and identify what you are willing to surrender in exchange. Some things may be more important to you than cash, and that holds true for your spouse. If you anticipate what the other party is likely to hold out for, then you have greater bargaining power over the things that you really want.
The more issues you and your spouse can resolve amicably, the fewer disputed issues your divorce attorneys will litigate, and the fewer decisions the Court will be required to make.