Avoid These Common Mistakes Made In Settlement Discussions

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Litigating Instead of Making an Agreement

Divorce, including custody and property issues, is an emotional and sometimes costly experience. Coming to an agreement with your spouse has plenty of benefits over litigating:

  1. Making an agreement lets you and your spouse or significant other control the outcome of your case instead of letting a judge, who does not know you or your family and who has limited time to hear your evidence, make the decision instead. 
  2. Making an agreement is less costly, both financially and emotionally. 
  3. Making an agreement is a way to minimize the impact that a divorce or custody dispute has on children.
  4. Making an agreement is a way to minimize the impact that a divorce or custody dispute has on a party to a divorce or custody case.

Not Being Transparent About Financial Disclosures

During the divorce process, spouses may be tempted to hide assets that should be revealed in the proceedings. If it’s discovered that a spouse has purposely covered up assets or income, the penalties can be severe, including a charge of perjury and monetary sanctions or fines.

Be honest and transparent about your finances, including all income and assets, and never try to hide financial information.

Letting Emotion Cloud Your Judgment

Divorce is an emotional time, and you could be feeling angry or guilty. Don’t let emotions rule your decisions by insisting on unfair or unreasonable settlements out of revenge or a desire to punish the other party. Likewise, don’t make unnecessary concessions out of guilt or shame.

Using the Children as Pawns

One of the biggest mistakes to avoid throughout the divorce process is using your children as pawns. Remember that this event is already traumatizing for them, so it’s important to remain emotionally balanced in front of them.

  1. Avoid speaking badly about your soon-to-be ex-spouse in front of children.
  2. Ensure that custody and visitation awards are in the best interest of the children and not used as a way to punish the other spouse.
  3. Use good judgment and avoid putting the children in the middle of your dispute with the other party. 

Refusing to Compromise

Refusing to compromise results in extended proceedings and decisions that aren’t equitable. At the heart of a fair settlement is compromise. Refusing to consider other reasonable alternatives is a mistake you can’t afford to make in settlement decisions.

Come to the proceedings with a list of non-negotiable terms as well as a list of those you are willing to negotiate. Work closely with your attorney to have a BAFO (Best and Final Offer) before sitting at the table.

Not Considering the Implications of a Decision

On the surface, deciding on keeping an asset may seem like a good idea. Always consider the bigger picture, however, and how that decision will impact the future. The marital house, for instance, seems like a good award but you will be solely responsible for mortgage and repairs moving forward. Certain assets, such as retirement assets, may grow in value, but then there may be future capital gains taxes associated with that growth for which you may be responsible.

An experienced family law attorney can help you see the bigger picture so you make the decisions that are the best for you in the long run, not just at this moment in time.

Not Hiring an Experienced Family Law Attorney to Represent You

One of the biggest mistakes to avoid in settlement discussions is not partnering with an experienced family law attorney. No matter how amicable the divorce appears to be on the surface, it’s imperative that you have representation.

Without representation, you may miss important clauses including waivers of alimony (if applicable) and other waivers. Your agreement might fail to address certain technical details, especially those related to pensions or other complicated financial assets.

Meiselman, Helfant & Wills has the experience to settle or litigate all divorce and custody matters. Contact us and put our experience to work for you.

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