Negotiation – An Ex-Couple’s First Step For Settling Separation

Separation and divorce don’t always have to end up in acrimonious court battles. Sometimes, they both start and finish with one of history’s oldest dispute resolution methods: negotiation.

Unlike litigation, these informal discussions don’t have to follow any hard-and-fast rules. They can take place in a lawyer’s office, across the kitchen table or even through email. They may conclude in a single session or over a series of meetings. At the most basic, they require only some plain talking, a handshake and ideally, a written agreement at the end.

Why Negotiate?

Negotiation – if done correctly – is usually the quickest and cheapest way to settle matters at the end of a relationship. No court fees. No long wait for a trial date.

It also affords ex-couples the greatest degree of flexibility. The parties can call their own shots on the process and the outcome rather than surrender their fate into the hands of a judge.

Even if nothing else is accomplished, parties typically exit with a better understanding of each other’s position before escalating matters to the next level.

Come In Prepared

Although spouses can engage in self-directed negotiations, each party is wise to seek his or her own independent legal counsel. Conducting a strategic negotiation and walking away from it with a fair arrangement requires solid knowledge of legal rights and responsibilities – as well as some negotiating savvy.

For example, the law allows ex-spouses to sign away certain legal rights, but not others – ok for spousal support, but not for child support. Without such knowledge, the parties may sign their negotiated agreement, but discover later that a court will not enforce its provisions. A legal advisor can pierce the issues to determine not only what’s permissible, but also what’s reasonable, fair and advantageous.

An experienced lawyer can also serve as a cool head, a steadying hand and a more objective lens for perspective – no small advantage if stresses escalate and tempers start flaring.

When Negotiation May Not Work

Setting aside the advantages, negotiation is not always suitable for everyone – even as a first step. Negotiations require a proper foundation for success. In situations where there is a history of abuse or intimidation, one party is withholding vital information or a parent poses a flight risk with the children, negotiation is best bypassed.

But in many other cases, a well-conducted negotiation can be the springboard that lets separating parties settle matters and move on more quickly with their lives

Separating or divorcing?

Call us.

Our lawyers can guide you through it.

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