When you first hear the word divorce, your mind probably cuts to a courtroom where two people are lobbing insults and accusations about a wide array of subjects. Movies and television have done a great job of providing us with this sort of image of the American divorce and what it looks like. At the same time, some divorces proceed into courtroom antics like this the vast majority in Texas do not.
Most Texas divorces settle before the inside of a courtroom is ever seen. However, what separates the settled cases from the litigated cases is more than just facts and circumstances. A lot of times, the parties' approach has as much to do with it as anything else. If you can approach your divorce with the mindset that you will work every day towards a settlement of your divorce case, you will likely achieve that goal.
Today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, will detail some pieces of advice that our attorneys have to provide you with a leg up in attempting to settle a divorce case well before the need to go to court.
Set your pride to the side and initiate decent settlement offers
I have worked as a family law attorney for several years. In my experience, it happens on occasion that very weak settlement offers will be made to test the waters and see what a person may be willing to accept early on in the case. Another motivation for doing so maybe that you do not want to appear weak or overly willing to submit yourself to the negotiation process. After all, if you are negotiating from a position of strength, why concede anything to your opposing party.
If you have this mindset heading into your divorce, I can almost assure you that your case will sit for a good while until either you or your opposing party come forth with a decent settlement offer. The fact is that at different stages of a divorce, your settlement offer could be received differently. By trying to appear strong in negotiations, you could be missing out on a golden opportunity to settle your case. There are no guarantees that the opportunity will present itself again.
There is no shame in being the party that approaches the other to settle the divorce. Your attorney will help you ensure that you are not conceding too much in your settlement offer.
Negotiate in a forward-looking position
Suppose that you make a settlement offer to your opponent in the area of your property division. The offer is rejected, and a counteroffer is received that is not at all close to yours. You have your ends of the spectrum at this stage, and you can now seek to move yourself a little closer to your opponent.
Instead of attempting to move closer to your opponent in your counteroffer, you go the other way and make an offer that is more likely to be denied. While it is unfair to say that it is never a good idea to retract a prior settlement offer and issue a new offer, these circumstances do not often present themselves.
The general rule of negotiation that I follow is that once a proposal is made to your opposing party, each subsequent offer must attempt to bring the parties closer together. To negotiate in the way, I described above would be negotiating "backward." In effect, you are punishing your spouse by rejecting their counteroffer and then moving further away, thus causing a settlement to become less and less like. Your good faith offer can always be rejected, but you should not seek to punish the other party for doing so. If you operate in good faith and your spouse does as well, there is a high likelihood that a settlement can be reached eventually.
Be willing to negotiate.
You may think that your spouse is the most hard-headed and difficult person on this planet, and as a result, any attempts to settle with him or she will likely be fruitless. Having this mindset will cause you to retreat into your separate corners, where only the bell of litigation will free you. If your fair offer is met with rebuke, then you should stop negotiating before making a counteroffer. By issuing a bad counteroffer, you are falling into their trap, and you will find yourself inside of a courtroom as a result.
Mediation is a formal settlement negotiation where parties come together and negotiate with the assistance of a third-party mediator. This is where the distance between you and your spouse can be closed due to the nature of the negotiation session. You all can sit near one another all day in some cases. Time is your friend. The odds are decent that if you give your spouse time to consider your offers, the gap between your positions will lessen.
Do not get frustrated or angry at a settlement proposal.
If you are offered something in negotiations, do not consider it an insult to your character if it does not seem fair or evenhanded. Your spouse is likely working out their strategy to present issues to you. It could also be the case where your spouse is making offers that you believe to be absurd because they have a mistaken belief about a central issue about your case.
Usually, people do not make "low ball" offers out of a spirit of discord, but rather due to their testing the waters to see how you will react if you maintain your composure and understand that negotiation may last for months, your chances to avoiding a courtroom battle increase a great deal.
Prepare an initial settlement offer with your attorney.
Just because a settlement proposal may be informal does not mean that you shouldn't put a lot of thought into it. Meet with your attorney before you make a settlement offer to learn about the issues of your case and what a reasonable offer looks like as a result. What may seem reasonable to you as a layperson may not be all that reasonable from the perspective of an attorney? Talk to your lawyer to see what is reasonable and how you can incorporate reason into your settlement proposals.
While it is advisable to settle your case in most situations rather than to proceed to the unknown (i.e., a bench trial), sometimes the settlement offers you receive are so bad that it is not a terrible idea to roll the dice and proceed with the trial. If you display a willingness to take the risk of going to trial, your opponent may wise up and make legitimate settlement offers. Either way, don't lose your cool. Work with your attorney and be respectful to your spouse at all times. You never know when a solid offer will be made, and when it is, you need to be ready to accept or make a reasonable counteroffer.
Questions about settling a divorce case? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, work tirelessly on behalf of our clients. If you are interested in learning how to assist you in your family law case, please contact us today. We offer free of charge consultations with our licensed family law attorneys six days a week. There is no case too big or too small for our attorneys to help you with. Thank you for your time and consideration.