Not everyone that contacts our office, hires our divorce lawyers. The reasons vary but most often, it is as a result of the financial costs involved. Our attorneys still provide free consultations and during that time, the question that comes up frequently, is "How do I negotiation a settlement without getting taken advantage of?"
I wish there was a simple answer but there isn't one. (Remember, it is important that you speak to an attorney if you don't understand any terms of a settlement agreement.)
Here is an over-simplified list for negotiating your divorce settlement, including child custody, financial and property issues, or all of the above. Again, some of these issues are complex so you may want to speak with an attorney.
Negotiating your own divorce settlement can save you a lot of time and money, but be sure to do it right. Here are ten tips to help you when negotiating with your spouse directly.
- Know your finances BEFORE you start talking. Be aware of all of your finances or get as much information as you can before you start. Discovery is the legal method for “discovering” all the financial information that you may not have direct access to. If you have joint accounts, this information tends to be more accessible. Be aware of self-employed spouses.
- Understand the law about your children. Judges are not there to be your friend. They apply the law and are supposed to find an equitable outcome; not necessarily fair. But, Judges do care about kids! It is necessary for you to know what obligations you have regarding your kids including financial, medical and visitation. The laws have changed so do your homework.
- What do you want? Know this before you start your divorce negotiation. It seems to be an easy question, but so many people don't know. A “fair” settlement isn't a proper answer. Write down everything you want and list them in order of importance. Understand you will not get everything you want.
- What do you need? You need to pay your rent, electric bill, car payment, insurance payments and so on. You want a better car or vacations to Hawaii. Understand the difference and write them down.
- Know what your spouse wants. Being able to communicate with your spouse is essential to a good outcome. The more you can discuss and create a “win-win” for both of you, the better change your case will settle.
- Know your bottom line. Negotiating your divorce will not always be successful even for attorneys! You have to know your bottom line and be prepared to walk away before you give up too much.
- Don't be emotional. This is difficult if not impossible for some people. It's an emotional situation. You have spent time, money and other resources in your relationship so being “matter-of-fact” can seem heart-less or rude. Don't fall into this trap.
- Be flexible. I'm sure you've heard “There's more than one way to skin a cat.” You may disagree with something your spouse needs. But, there may be another way to get to the same outcome by different methods.
- Set the rules before you start. Even if you and your spouse come to an agreement, its always a good idea to let your attorney review it! Make sure this is clear from the start.
- Always have a plan. Negotiations never go as planned. Always be prepared for surprises and know what you are willing to give up.
This type of negotiation is not for everyone. If you just cannot do it yourself, you can contact us and speak to a divorce attorney about your options including a collaborative divorce that would allow you and your spouse to negotiate with the help of one of our attorneys.