When negotiating a divorce settlement, the goal should be to reach an agreement fair to both you and your ex-spouse. Of course, what both parties see as “fair” during a divorce can vary drastically, especially when it isn’t an uncontested divorce. Animosity, hurt feelings, and bruised egos often get in the way of smooth negotiations.
Once you settle, it’s legally binding. Some of the best advice a divorce attorney can give you regarding settlements is to work out what you want before negotiations begin. But before you start making your list, understand that certain divorce principles may limit what you can negotiate to receive. Read on to learn more about guidelines for fair settlements in divorce.
The difference between personal property and marital property is pretty clear-cut, at least in normal circumstances: anything you owned before getting married remains yours. Most things acquired during your marriage are co-owned (not counting gifts given to a single person by a third-party), including physical property like cars, homes, furniture, and appliances. This can also extend to bank and retirement accounts.
The waters get muddied with commingling property, or property owned by one party but whose acquisition was contributed-to by both. A good example is a car. Say your ex-spouse has a vehicle in their name, but you helped make payments on it. It has potentially become commingling property.
These distinctions are important because they establish what you are entitled to by law:
- Personal property remains yours.
- Marital property gets split.
- Commingling property will get divided if proof of sole ownership can’t be proven.
When it’s time to negotiate a fair settlement, proving what is yours will protect your property. More importantly, negotiations allow you and your ex-spouse to work out ownership of marital property in a way you both find preferable instead of leaving the decision up to a judge.
Material Assets and Debt
Another consideration alongside property division is the division of financial assets and debts. The same rules apply: what was yours before getting married is separate from what you acquired during the marriage.
Many people struggle with how the law divides assets during a divorce. The idea that what one spouse earned doing their work at their job belongs to them and their spouse can be difficult to accept, especially with the bitter feelings that divorce can bring on.
When left to a judge, assets and debts will be divided equally between you and your ex-spouse. However, as part of the process, other factors will be assessed and the split may be adjusted so that it is fairer in the eyes of the law. For example, if records show one party used these joint-funds irresponsibly, they’re likely to receive a smaller share. Another reason for an “uneven” split may be so that the spouse who earned less can continue to support themselves for some time following the divorce.
However, your settlement terms don’t have to follow these rules if both parties are in agreement. This is also true for alimony, also known as spousal support.
Often the most stressful part of divorce for parents is determining custody. What’s more, their lives come under intense scrutiny as a judge weighs each parent’s fitness when determining custody arrangements.
A fair divorce settlement sees both parents agreeing to child custody on their terms. Things like work schedules, living arrangements, and distance between parents will be assessed to work out a custody schedule.
Ideally, custody and visitation agreements would see both parents having as close to equal time with the child as possible, but that isn’t always attainable. Still, it will establish that both parents will have an equal say in making decisions that impact their child’s welfare and that one parent can’t prevent the other from having contact.
Set Your Expectations
When negotiating a settlement, both parties should rely on family law attorneys to do the actual negotiations. You will still draw up the terms that you want, but your lawyer will help you navigate the discussion and finalize the terms.
It’s best if you temper your expectations going into a divorce settlement. Negotiations are give and take, and the odds are against you getting precisely what you want. Unless you can prove specific terms are unfair or even dangerous, you should expect to be flexible. For example, it’s unreasonable to demand full custody of a child. However, if you have evidence of neglect and can make a case for terminating parental rights, you can argue against joint custody. Custody is always considered in the light of the best interest of the child, and in most cases the best interest of the child is to have time with both parents.
Ultimately, fair settlement negotiations should be just that: fair. It’s not a tool to give one spouse leverage over the other or punish a spouse for any reason. With the help of family law attorneys, both spouses can expect to get their fair share.
You Can Rely On Hunter Fowler Law
Divorces get messy. You need an experienced divorce attorney who is an expert in family law—someone who will help you set realistic goals—someone that you trust.
Whether you’re filing for divorce or have been served divorce papers, you may feel like your world has come crashing down around you. It’s a very vulnerable and confusing place to be in, which is why you need the best legal counsel possible to navigate all the ins and outs of divorce law.
Attorney Hunter Fowler has provided legal services to many individuals in your exact situation and will work with you through every detail of your divorce proceedings to ensure the final outcome is what you want for yourself and your family. Contact Hunter Fowler today to get the legal counsel you deserve.