Settling a divorce or family law matter is something most parties desire. It is uncommon for somebody to want a trial in their divorce or family law matter.
Trials are expensive. Not only are they expensive, but in a trial the result rests in the hands of one family court judge. Most reasonable parties do not want to put their and their children’s lives in the hands of one judge.
But to settle a divorce or family law matter, it usually takes one party to take the first step towards settlement. In other words, somebody has to extend the olive branch first. The olive branch usually requires somebody to broach the topic of settlement.
Extending An Olive Branch
Settlement negotiations often begin with one party sending an offer through their attorney to the other attorney on the case. While initial settlement offers do not always result in a settlement, it can open the door to more negotiations.
Many ask if it matters who sends the initial settlement offer. If one party issues the first settlement offer, some worry whether that offer shows weakness. In some cases, where the positions are far apart, some fear sending a settlement offer is futile.
However, sending a settlement offer does not ordinarily signal weakness. Instead, it shows that a party is willing to be reasonable to reach a constructive resolution to the case. It also indicates that they are ready to swallow any pride in favor of putting their kids and family first.
Every case is different and calls for an individual analysis. Anyone going through a divorce or family law matter should discuss their situation with a lawyer who is licensed and competent to practice in their jurisdiction.
Judges Want Parties to Attempt Settlement
Most judges, before they hear a trial in a divorce or family law matter, also want to know if the parties have attempted settlement. When parties have not even made an attempt, some judges may have concerns.
Settlement negotiations are almost always inadmissible at trial. It is possible that a judge could hold it against a party if they did not attempt meaningful settlement negotiations. While not at trial, judges often know about the settlement efforts from pre-trial or settlement conferences in a case.
Instead of worrying about whether it looks looks weak to issue a settlement offer, parties should instead focus more on looking reasonable to the court. Being reasonable often results in obtaining a positive result if the case ends up in trial.
Past that, a settlement offer can ultimately lead to a settlement. When there is a settlement, parties save money on attorneys’ fees. The parties can also put to rest the emotional anguish and stress of being in the midst of a divorce or family law matter.
Sending An Informed Settlement Offer
For most parties, it does make sense to issue a settlement offer. Of course, it is vital to have enough information about the finances of the case. These details can be gathered through formal or informal discovery and used to make an informed settlement offer.
To make an informed settlement, parties need the tax returns and statements regarding all marital property and debt. When valuations are needed, the parties can hire experts to value marital property such as real estate, stock options, and business interests. With children involved, the parties need school and medical records.
Once this takes place, most parties should think about sending a settlement offer. Sending the initial settlement offer may not work, but it may begin the conversation. It also signals a willingness to negotiate and be reasonable.