I often find that people think that because they can negotiate in other arenas that they can negotiate their own divorce. This arena is not like a lot of other areas.
3 Things You Shouldn't do during a Divorce Settlement Negotiations
- Don’t tie an offer on money/property to parenting time. Sometimes a parent will say “I will only agree on %x or $x settlement IF I get the parenting schedule I want.” The law specifically disallows this, and no judge would ever approve of it. It is tempting to want to tie everything together to get a global settlement, but you can do that in other ways without specifically hinging one on the other.
- For money and property issues don’t negotiate one item at a time. People often end up painting themselves into a corner and have no more room to negotiate and when they look at the big picture, it doesn’t look so good. So put everything, all assets, and all debts, on a spreadsheet and then assign a value and then assign who gets it. You can divide assets and debts by a % or by a dollar amount. Each asset does NOT need to get divided in half. The law says that a property settlement must be “fair and reasonable.” It does not say it has to be 50-50. But it is critical that you are able to look at the whole picture – not just one item at a time.
- Don’t negotiate before you have consulted with an attorney. You need to know what is “fair and reasonable” as the law defines it, not as you may think what is “fair.” Often a party’s sense of “fairness” has little to do with what a judge would order as “fair.” You may not need an attorney during the negotiations, but you should know what the law thinks of as “fair” before you make an offer or accept an offer. I have seen too many settlements negotiated based on what a person thinks is “fair” only to find out that they could have gotten more, or they could have paid less. If you have an idea of what you want to propose, then buy an hour or two of a lawyer’s time to review the offer and the issues. Then you are educated and can move more confidently into a settlement.