Getting Things Settled: Understanding Divorce Settlement Meetings
Settling divorce issues in a meeting may prevent personal things from appearing in open court. That is only one reason prompting divorcing couples to make decisions outside of the courtroom. Read on and find out more.
At Your Own Conference Table
The idea of a "kitchen table" agreement can lead to saving money and creating a personalized agreement covering several issues. Legally, couples are not only free to discuss divorce issues on their own but encouraged to do so. Just you and your spouse, if you are on speaking terms, should plan to get together and make some important decisions. For instance, is there anyone more appropriate to make decisions about child custody and visitation than the parents themselves? Even if you only manage to get a few issues decided on, it's worth it to try. At the very least, you will leave your kitchen table with a better idea of how your spouse feels about some divorce issues.
Formal Settlement Meetings
If you have filed for divorce and you still have issues that should be resolved, your lawyer might suggest a settlement conference. This meeting is more formal than a kitchen table conference but it's less formal than court. Only you, your spouse, and your divorce lawyers will attend a settlement meeting. In many cases, that includes discussions of the following issues, although probably not all at the same meeting:
- Who will pay which marital debts? How will they be divided?
- Who should retain full physical custody of a child? What should your visitation schedule look like?
- Can one spouse afford to pay spousal support to the other and can the receiving spouse prove that they need it?
- Who wants the family pet and who is the better pet parent?
As you can see, these are very difficult issues and deserve thoughtful consideration.
What to Expect at Your Settlement Conference
In most cases, both sides will come prepared to argue for what they want. However, the idea of a settlement conference is not to air disagreements but to compromise about issues in contention. Starting with less volatile issues may be a good idea. If a small issue gets settled, it can encourage the parties to tackle tougher ones. When an issue is agreed upon, both parties sign the paperwork, and it goes into the final divorce decree.
When both parties agree upon an issue, family law judges will almost always approve of it and order it done. The result, in the end, is a divorce decree. To learn more about deciding on divorce issues outside of court, speak to a divorce lawyer.