Negotiation means talking through your issues with the person you are at odds with so that you can resolve your differences. Divorce negotiation often means talking to your spouse in an attempt to settle your issues. It can also mean negotiating with a mediator present, or negotiating through or with your attorneys.
Direct Divorce Negotiation
The quickest, most efficient, and least expensive way to settle your case is to talk directly with your spouse and settle your issues yourself. For a lot of people, however, settling their divorce themselves is not possible. If you can’t talk to your spouse without getting into a screaming match, negotiating your divorce directly is not going to work.
Divorce Negotiation Through Mediation
If you can’t negotiate with your spouse alone, divorce mediation is the next most cost-efficient and effective way to negotiate with your spouse. A divorce mediator is a neutral party who facilitates your discussions with your spouse and helps you resolve your issues yourself. Typically, attorneys are not present during divorce mediation, although they can be there if everyone agrees that their presence will help.
Attorney negotiation can happen in many different ways. Your attorney can negotiate with your spouse’s attorney in person, over the telephone, or in writing. You and your attorney can meet with your spouse and his/her attorney in a four way settlement conference. Or all of you can meet in court at a pretrial conference with the judge or a hearing officer. In that case, the judge or the hearing officer may give recommendations to you about how you should settle your case. Once you know what those recommendations are (and thus know what the judge is likely to rule if you actually tried the case), it may become easier for you and your spouse to settle the case.
Timing of Negotiation
In general, you can negotiate a settlement at any time. It is not uncommon for divorce cases to be settled in the hallway right before, or even during, trial. Obviously, though, the earlier you settle your case, the less time and money you will spend fighting about it. By negotiating a settlement early, you usually end up negotiating about dividing more money and assets, since you haven’t spent it all fighting with each other.
On the other hand, if your spouse is hiding assets or making unreasonable demands, you may end up having to use divorce litigation and fight in court. That doesn’t mean you still can’t negotiate a settlement. It just means you will spend some time, money and energy going through discovery and arguing with your spouse before you ultimately settle your case.