Divorce Court is Expensive-Try a Settlement Conference
An estimated 95% of all divorces, including those that are simple, complex, friendly and contested, are settled without going to trial in California.
Good divorce lawyers will usually encourage their clients’ to come to a reasonable settlement rather than going to trial. This is not only because in most cases it is better for their clients to do so but also because California law encourages attorneys to do so. In fact, lawyers can be sanctioned if they make it more litigious.
There are three primary reasons that divorce cases settle:
1. Exhaustion –
Divorces are mentally, physically and emotionally taxings. People often end up throwing up their hands and surrendering out frustration and fatigue.
2. Expense –
Divorces often end when the parties run out of money. The more two individuals fight in court, the more it will cost. A single court appearance can run into several thousand dollars not to mention the time off from work to attend the hearing. If you cannot resolve your divorce disputes by a settlement, you will spend up to 10 times more than someone who settles.
3. Control –
If they can afford it, some couples will go all the way to the brink of trial before finally agreeing to settle. This is usually because their attorney finally convinced them that going to trial means giving up control. A judge, not the parties, will decide custody, support and property issues. The court has guidelines established by law that they adhere to whereas if you reach a reasonable settlement, you and spouse have much more flexibility.
Spouses may negotiate their settlements agreements through direct communication, indirectly through their attorneys, in mediation through the collaborative divorce process or during a court sponsored settlement conference.
Most California courts require settlement conferences before the parties to a divorce, legal separation or dissolution of a domestic partnership may schedule their case for trial.
Clearly divorcing parties should take advantage of settlement conferences as they provide the opportunity to save money, decrease stress, and spend less time entangled in divorce proceedings.
Here are 10 things to help you in a divorce settlement conference:
1. Know the real issues.
Primarily divorce issues fall into one of four categories in California divorces, legal separations and the dissolutions of domestic partnerships. They are child custody, child support, spousal support and property division. Sit down and consider these four categories before your settlement conference. It is a good idea to narrow things down to the really important issues, the lessor issues will tend to resolve themselves and wasting time on them at your settlement conference will only prolong it. You should know your bottom line on the important issues and consider how your spouse may respond to your demands. Make sure that you have communicated your important issues to your attorney and that your lawyer knows your bottom line.
2. Listen to your lawyer about the law.
After having communicated the important issues of your divorce, legal separation or same sex marriage dissolution, you should listen to what your family law attorney advises about your case. A good divorce lawyer will tell their clients how the law applies in their case. You may find your important issues are not in conformity with the law or that you are unlikely to prevail on a particular issue if the matter was to go before a judge.
3. Know what it will cost.
It is a good idea to ask you divorce, legal separation or same sex marriage dissolution for an estimate of how much it will cost to take your family law case to trial. Knowing how much more that you will need to pay before attending a settlement conference will help you to determine how flexible you may need to be. If you cannot afford a trial or do not wish to spend your money in such a way, you may soften your position on somethings at the settlement conference.
4. Almost anything is possible.
If you are able to reach a settlement at a settlement conference, you will not only save money but you may be able to work out an agreement that would be unlikely in court. A judge is limited by law but the parties can agree to almost any terms. This means that an agreement can be made where on paper it may seem imbalanced but the parties themselves want it to be so.
5. Hold your cards until the last minute.
Never go into a settlement conference prepared to lay out your bottom line demands from the start. It is best to go in with higher demands knowing that you will give in to many of them. If you go in with your bottom line demands then you will be left with no room for concession.
6. Hold firm to your resolve.
When you say “hold firm to your resolve” or “remain determined” to a party to a divorce, legal separation or same sex marriage dissolution, that person will usually take that to mean that they shouldn’t give in to their demands. But, in this context it means that you should remain determined to settle your matter at the settlement conference.
7. Give a little to get a little.
You must understand one basic premise of every divorce, legal separation or same sex marriage dissolution, which is that the two of you had things together that collectively added up to more than what either of you will receive from the divorce. What each party will receive at best is something less than one half of the community assets. Similarly, child custody may be divided up. You will not have the same property after the divorce as you did during the marriage and you will not see your kids as often as did during the marriage. Knowing this going in to your settlement conference may help you to prepare mentally to let some things go to your spouse so that you may in turn receive some concessions from them.
8. Give it time.
It is not uncommon for settlement conferences to take several hours or even several days to reach an agreement. Often settlement conferences end in a stalemate but, the attorneys will likely keep the discussion going. As long as the parties continue to communicate and try to stay reasonable, there is hope for a settlement.
If you are in a divorce or if you are considering a divorce, the Law Offices of Marc Grossman will give you clear, concise legal opinions for free. Simply complete one of the contact forms you will find on our website or call 855-LOMG-911 to speak to a family law specialist now.