Five Tips to Help Settle Your Divorce
In New Jersey, the vast majority of divorce cases settle without having a divorce or dissolution trial. In most cases, at some time during the litigation the parties will enter into some type of negotiation. The settlement negotiation can occur in various forms. The negotiation can be direct between the attorneys, as part of a four way conference (an in person meeting with attorneys and litigants), as part of formal mediation, or as part of the MESP process. Regardless of form of the settlement negotiations, here are five things you should consider when you are entering into the divorce settlement negotiation process:
1. Be Prepared and Do Your Homework. Being prepared is critical to obtaining a good result as part of your settlement negotiations. Before you begin to negotiate the terms of your settlement agreement, you should carefully scrutinize your case information statement (“CIS”). The listing of assets and liabilities and the itemized budgets that are in your CIS are the cornerstone for your negotiation position. You should have backup documentation to support every asset, liability, and budget line item in your CIS. For example, you should have bank statements that correspond with the bank accounts that are listed in your CIS. Being able to justify your proposed division of assets with backup documentation, help you negotiate from a position of strength.
2. Understand the Universe of Your Finances. Your divorce settlement negotiation can result in a financial disaster if you do not have complete understanding of your and your spouse's finances. Often times a couple that is divorcing will attempt negotiate a settlement and, inevitably, one or more of their debts that are not considered and addressed in the negotiation. The undisclosed debts are commonly dormant debts that both parties forgot existed. For example, an old medical bill that is owed but has not been collected upon in some time. This ultimately will leave one party responsible for a previously undisclosed debt. A credit report can help identify debts of the parties. Knowing the total amount of debt is essential to obtaining a fair and realistic settlement.
3. Have Realistic Expectations. Once you have done your homework and understand your finances, it's a good idea to set reasonable expectations. This can be very difficult especially if you are emotional about the way your spouse treated you and the pending divorce. Keep in mind that, in New Jersey, fault has no impact on the financial resolution of your divorce. Understanding that it is likely that you and your spouse will have to divide your assets and liabilities equally, it is advisable to develop a plan and set your expectations realistically in accordance with your finances. For example, it if you are the primary wage earner for the family, your spouse does not work and you have a long-term marriage, may not be reasonable for you to expect not to pay alimony. Remember: having reasonable and realistic expectations while negotiating is the best way to avoid the costs associated with the trial.
4. Be Willing to Compromise. Recognize that in divorce negotiations neither party will get everything that they are requesting. It sounds rather simple and basic. If both parties could agree that one party should get everything they want there would be no conflict and no need for negotiation. Being willing to compromise does not mean should give your spouse what they are demanding just for the sake of coming to an agreement. It is a good idea, in advance of the divorce negotiation, to prioritize what is most important to you. The less important desires can be the basis of your compromise agreement.
5. Be a Great Communicator. It is often advisable to have a written settlement position in advance of the settlement negotiation session. Wherever possible, try to get your spouse to agree to exchange written settlement positions before the negotiations begin. Advance written communication with your spouse is required in the MESP process for good reason: it gives both sides the opportunity to know the initial positions of the parties and it allows the parties to start thinking of ways to narrow issues before the formal divorce negotiation session starts. When you finally have the opportunity to begin your divorce settlement negotiation, take a deep breath and be a great listener. Listening is essential to being a great communicator. It also gives insight not only to the other parties' wants and desires but also it can lead to clues about their fears and concerns. Only after you have exercise patience listening should you start to formulate and assert your position.
We're here to help. If you or a loved one has questions regarding the New Jersey divorce process, please contact the Divorce and Family Law attorneys at DeMichele and DeMichele. For a confidential consultation to discuss your situation with one of our New Jersey custody attorneys, you can also call (856) 546-1350. _______