If a couple wants to get a
divorce and do so without having a judge intervene, they must agree to a divorce
settlement. Ideally, the spouses will remain calm and collected and they’ll
treat their divorce like a business transaction – and keep their
emotions out of the equation – at least while they’re sitting
at the negotiating table.
Whether someone is negotiating the purchase of a business, a home, a piece
of real estate, an investment property, or if they’re negotiating
over the assets and debts of a marriage, they take the same steps: 1)
they must do their research, 2) they must become educated about the tax
consequences, 3) they must determine their goals, and 4) they must come
to a fair agreement. All negotiations share the same patterns and divorce
is just like any other type of business transaction. Both parties should
If you are getting a divorce and you and your spouse have assets that are
subject to division under California’s
community property laws, then two factors will inevitably come into play: what type of
settlement would be reasonably affordable and which settlement would be personally
acceptable to you and your spouse. You see, if you cannot reach an agreement
with your spouse, the only option is to have a family court judge step
in and decide how to divide your marital assets and debts. This is a last
resort and should be avoided if at all possible.
Divorce Negotiations 101
How will the negotiations process begin? It will all start with you and
your personal divorce attorney. You and your lawyer would sit down, take
a close look at all of your marital assets and debts, discuss your short
and long-term goals, take into account your rights and responsibilities
under California’s community property law, and thoughtfully put
together the first draft of your marital settlement agreement. Once the
first draft is complete, the next step will be to meet with your spouse
and his or her attorney.
“The more insight you have into what your spouse wants and needs,
the more you can negotiate in a manner that will satisfy both of you,”
Karen Covy wrote in
HuffPost. “You may think you don’t care about what your spouse wants
or needs, but that kind of attitude is short-sighted. The more you can
create a ‘win-win’ situation for both of you, the more likely
you are to succeed in settling your case amicably,” said Covy.
Here are our tips for negotiating a divorce settlement:
Educate yourself on the applicable divorce laws as they pertain to
spousal support, asset and debt division. This way you understand your rights and responsibilities
under the law.
- Determine what’s important to you and what you want out of the divorce.
- Be concrete in your ideas, but be flexible and listen to your attorney’s reason.
- If you don’t understand your spouse’s objective, ask questions
so you can understand where he or she is coming from.
- Prepare to answer questions about your motivations.
- If a problem needs to be resolved, be tough about finding a solution but
be soft on the individuals involved.
Know the Facts & Develop Your Objectives
Spouses often know what they strongly desire out of the divorce; for example,
sole custody of the kids, all of their retirement account, the marital
residence, or even, “Nothing but the family dog,” but often,
these wishes are impractical and unrealistic in light of the laws. In
reality, divorcing spouses must find a way to compromise with their spouse
until a mutually satisfactory settlement agreement is reached.
If you haven’t already met with a divorce lawyer, you need to meet
with one, get educated on the law, and from there formulate your objectives
in the divorce. You want to avoid assuming that you’ll obtain sole
custody of the children, spousal support, or the lion’s share of
the marital estate without discussing these issues with an attorney. All
too often, people say and do things based on “false hopes”
and they end up putting the “cart before the horse” as the
old saying goes. It’s better to think practically, rather than having
unrealistic ideas about your divorce settlement.
If you have decided to file for divorce but you haven’t done anything
yet, our advice is to learn the law, determine exactly what your marital
estate is worth, put a number on your debts, decide what you want, and
what you want to accomplish by the time your divorce is finalized in court.
As you negotiate with your spouse, put yourself in his or her shoes and
ask yourself, “What would I do if it were me?” You can even
ask your spouse to perform the same exercise. What would your soon-to-be
former spouse do if they were you? The sooner you both take this approach,
the sooner you can arrive at a mutually-acceptable agreement.
How to Enter Negotiations
As you enter negotiations, keep the following in mind:
- Be on time.
- Dress nicely, but comfortably.
- Obtain a written agenda from your attorney.
- Bring a pen and notepad so you can take notes.
- Be polite to all attendees.
- Do not raise your voice or use derogatory language towards your spouse
or their lawyer.
- Avoid being defensive when explaining your ideas and be open to suggestions
- Do not let your spouse bring up personal issues during the negotiations.
If this happens, politely refuse to discuss things like dating during
- Do not let your spouse or their attorney bully or force you into a decision.
If you’re not sure about something, put the issue on hold while
you have time to investigate it and yield an educated decision.
- If you’re being pressured, don’t succumb by giving an immediate
response. Instead, ask for a few minutes to think about it.
- Do not drink alcohol or take drugs before a session to calm your nerves.
They can inadvertently impair your judgement.
We sincerely hope this information helps. If you are looking for a Los
Angeles divorce attorney,
contact our firm today to schedule a confidential, free consultation.