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What do you want to get out of settlement negotiations in your Texas divorce?

What kind of shopper are you? Do you go to the store with a list of items you need to purchase? With the list out, the moment you walk into the store you go right up to the items that you need and toss them in the cart. You are in and out in no time at all. 

Or are you the kind of shopper who isn’t much of a list maker? You prefer to see what there is to see. While some may call it aimless, you choose to look at it as open minded. Whatever catches your eye you will purchase. It may mean that you forget to buy milk and bread, but you bought a couple wheels of foreign cheeses if the mood strikes to indulge a little bit. 

The reality is that besides not having some essentials in the pantry, there really isn’t any harm in choosing to grocery shop utilizing either method that I just described to you. That is a pretty small part of your life and doesn’t impact anyone else for the most part. 

On the other end of the spectrum we have your divorce case. Your divorce is a big deal. Even if you want to downplay it is as something else, the reality is that your divorce has the potential to impact you and your children for years to come. I don’t tell you this to cause you to lose sleep. I do tell you this because it is something that you need to take seriously. If you belong to the group of shoppers who do not make lists, then I am talking especially to you. 

Create a plan of attack for negotiations in your divorce

Did you know that you are more likely to settle your divorce case than to see it end in a trial? It’s true. The vast majority of divorces in Texas settle rather than go to a trial where the judge makes the final decisions for your family. I don’t think anyone would argue that this is a bad thing. Even if it were a bad thing, I’m not prepared to tell you that there is anything we can do about it in the context of this blog post

Rather, I mean to tell you that your case is likely to come down to negotiations with your spouse because we need to prepare for the most likely outcome of your case. If it were more likely that your case were to go before the judge I suppose that I would be blogging about trial strategies and the Texas Rules of Evidence. But instead, let’s talk about developing a game plan for negotiations in a divorce. 

You need to first understand what you want to get out of negotiations before you actually begin negotiations. This usually starts off with your attorney asking you to come up with a list of what the most important things are that you want to accomplish in your divorce. You can go over your list of wants/needs with your attorney and then fine tune them along the way. These are going to be issues related to your children, your business, your personal finances, your family home and a host of other subjects. 

Next, I recommend that you and your attorney sit down and figure out how you can best accomplish those goals. Ask yourself: what isn’t true today that I need to become true for me to accomplish a certain goal? Then, work with your attorney on putting yourself in the position to accomplish that goal. Whatever options are available to you should be considered. The amount of thought that requires you to get to this point in the analysis will usually reveal whether or not your goal is reasonable. 

Keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with having unreasonably high goals, However, you risk driving your spouse away from the bargaining table if you constantly go to him with unrealistic demands. He may begin to feel like it’s worth taking the risk of seeing what the judge has to say rather than putting up with unrealistic or offensive settlement offers. 

Wants vs. Needs

If you do not have a firm grasp on what is a need of yours and what is a want of yours then I recommend that you speak to your attorney about what is a reasonable “ask” and what is an unreasonable “ask.” You can tell yourself and your spouse that something is a need when it is really a want, and he has the right to disagree with you. However, you need to keep in mind that he may feel like you are abusing the negotiation process by mis-categorizing a want as a need in your negotiations. 

There is a fine line between caving in on every argument that your spouse makes in negotiations and being obstinate and a brick wall when it comes to accepting reason. It can get ugly when spouses do not negotiate on their needs, but rather on their wants. Our needs are generally very few- even if our wants can form a list a mile long. Figure out what your needs are. Sit down and evaluate your life, your children and your finances. What do you need to get by now and in the immediate future. Do not attempt to pass a want off as a need, but at the same time do not back down on those portions of negotiations that truly do represent your needs. 

Negotiations based on needs can lead a quick divorce

From my experience, no matter how hard headed you believe your spouse to be, most of the time when you make reasonable settlement offers you will receive reasonable settlement offers back. Keep in mind that a reasonable settlement offer usually leaves a little bit on the table. If your offers ask for all the slices of pizza then you likely won’t hear back from your spouse. However, if you offer to take five slices of pizza, leave your spouse three and throw in some breadsticks for your spouse to make up the difference then you are likely to find that your divorce will be over with fairly quickly. 

What is all this advice supposed to accomplish, anyway?

It’s all good and well to provide you with a list of advice for divorces, but unless I can tell you what it all means or what it can help you accomplish then it will not serve much of a purpose. Here are my closing thoughts on this subject for you today.

First of all, you need to be represented by an experienced family law attorney in this divorce. We can talk all day and all night about what you can do to prepare for your divorce, but if you choose to have an inexperienced attorney representing you then all of your preparation will be pointless. Your attorney has to find a way to get all your preparedness injected into your case. If he cannot, then you probably need to find a new lawyer. 

An experienced family law attorney will know how to formulate effective discovery responses, thereby allowing you to learn more about your spouse’s case. Your attorney should also know how to guide you through the various stages of your case and keep you on track to finish your case sooner rather than later. Finally, your attorney should be experienced to be able to show you how to negotiate. When to push your spouse and when to back off on a particular point. 

Finding a lawyer to represent you in a divorce case is not hard. Finding the right lawyer for you is much more difficult. Spend some time interviewing attorneys and you will find that your chances of locating the right one for you increase a great deal. That lawyer will not have a problem being honest with you about your goals and can help you key in on the important issues of your case. 

Do not underestimate how stressful your divorce can be

I think a lot of people go into divorce cases and tell their friends that their case won’t be a big deal for a number of reasons. The most important reason that I can think of is that if you tell yourself something enough times then you are more likely to believe it. Repeat that enough times and you’ll have made a believer out of yourself. 

Divorce cases are not a walk in the park. Even if you and your spouse are on the best of terms, a divorce will still take some time to complete and have aspects of the case that are frustrating to you. As such, you need to lean on your support system during this time. Friends, family and your attorney are the people The ability to think clearly about the issues that you are facing can be difficult when you facing down a divorce. Regardless, it is something that you must do in order to move on with your life. 

The best piece of advice that I can give you regarding negotiations goes something like this: if both you and your spouse walk away from the settlement table feeling like you left something on the table, then you have negotiated well. 

Single parent issues for after your divorce

How quickly after your divorce was filed did it dawn on you that you were about to become one of the single parents you hear about on the news so frequently? The term has lost some meaning now that more and more people can claim to single parents, unfortunately. However, you will face challenges that you did not have to encounter when you and your ex-spouse were married. 

From the perspective of your finances, you need to have a plan on how you are going to raise your child as a single parent. As we saw in the last section of this blog post, if you fail to prepare you are preparing to fail. I will tell you that it is easy to lose money and make bad decisions when it comes to finances if you do not have a plan. 

You cannot fall into the trap that many single parents do after divorce, namely, that it is ok to spend a little more than you have in the bank on your children because they have been through a rough stretch/they deserve it. That is not true. Your children deserve for you to raise them to live within their means and to not seek comfort in experiences or material goods. By putting vacations, meals out or toys on credit then you are avoiding the real problems of your life. Deal with your problems head on rather than avoiding them. 

Keep track of child support- no matter if you are receiving payments or making them

If you are a noncustodial parent who pays child support, you need to verify that all of your payments go through to your ex-spouse. Check online through the Office of the Attorney General to make sure that payments go through as planned. Keeping track of each payment and receiving proof that the payment went through successfully can help you to avoid a great deal of financial hardships in the future. 

On the other hand, if you are the parent who is receiving child support then you should also track payments in the same way. If your ex-spouse is not paying you then you need to contact the Office of the Attorney General or a private attorney. Nothing can be done about those missed payments until you do one of those two things. 

More financial tips for single parents will be shared in tomorrow’s blog post

If you enjoyed today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, I recommend that you join us tomorrow here on our blog once again. We will pick up right where we left off by sharing easy to implement strategies for improving your post-divorce finances as a single parent. 

In the meantime, if you have any questions about what you read today please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week where we can listen to your questions and provide you with direct feedback about your circumstances. 

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