Five Things To Do When Negotiating in a Family Law Case
- Speak with an attorney before attempting settlement.
Too many people make agreements without speaking with a family law attorney first. Later, they are shocked to find out what they were actually entitled to. For instance, we had a client once who agreed to have the children every other weekend. When he spoke with us, he was dismayed to learn he could have had the children half the time. Taking the time to consult with an attorney can make a big difference in the outcome of your case.
- Be reasonable.
Some people going through a divorce or custody fight refuse to even discuss settlement. That is a mistake. The rules require you to make good-faith efforts to reach agreements. You are not required to settle, but you are required to have the discussion. Refusing to settle puts the whole case in the hands of a judge who won’t know as much about your situation as you do. It also runs the risk that you may get ordered to pay the other sides attorney’s fees because most judges consider it unreasonable to refuse to discuss settlement.
- Prioritize the things you are likely to agree on.
When you begin to talk about settlement, don’t start with the issues you know will lead to an argument. Start with something simple. For example, if you know custody is going to be a battle, start with the other things you might need to decide, such as who gets what vehicle, or how to divide the furniture, etc.
- Put the agreements in writing and sign them.
Any agreement you make should be in writing and signed. Even if you get a partial agreement, put it in writing and sign it. Both of you should review the Agreement and work together on edits until the Agreement is acceptable to both of you. Once you are both happy with it, you should sign and date it. Once an Agreement is in writing and signed, it is binding upon both parties under Rule 69 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure.
- Submit the Signed Agreement to the Court in the appropriate format.
It may be binding on you once it is in writing and signed, but it is not yet binding on the Court. To make it binding on the Court, you should submit the signed Agreement, with a Notice of Filing (saying you’re filing the Agreement) and a proposed order for the Court to sign (the proposed order should mirror the Agreement). Once the Court signs it, it is a binding agreement on the Court.