As Philadelphia divorce attorneys we see clients who come to us in a variety of emotional states. Confusion, fear, and anger are all very common, as are guilt and shame.
Thus, we see a lot of clients who have no idea what they want out of their divorce. And while we can certainly help you if you’re one of them, we’d like to encourage you to adopt one simple strategy that can make all the difference: setting some goals for where you’d like to see your settlement end up.
You might even want to write down, in some detail, what you want for all four of the major areas of the divorce settlement: assets, custody, spousal support and debts. Be as reasonable as possible, keeping in mind that family law favors equitable arrangements. This is not a good strategy if you want to “take your ex for all he/she is worth.”
Why is this strategy so helpful?
It tells your attorney what to fight for.
Sure, we can look at the facts you bring us and make some suggestions on what might be advantageous. But we aren’t inside your life. Knowing what’s important to you gives us our best chance to negotiate our way towards that.
If we don’t know, we’ll do our best, but we may have trouble arriving at a settlement you feel you can live with. Furthermore, you might not even be able to put your finger on why you’re not happy with it, because you don’t know yourself.
You won’t get derailed during negotiations.
Negotiations can get confusing. In the heat of the moment it can be hard to know whether to accept an offer or whether to send it back. Are you getting a fair deal? Are you passing up something you could have had?
It can also lead you to fighting over things you don’t care about simply because you feel you should. By setting your goals in advance you know when to push and when to let it go. Sure, you might be able to get more, but if that ‘more’ isn’t vital to your future, why bother? Let your ex walk away feeling like he or she has scored the win. Both your futures could be better for it.
You’re less likely to need a courtroom.
As we mentioned in a previous post, going to court is not ideal for most divorcing couples. Few divorcees are happy with what the judge ends up doing with their lives.
And since you know what you really want and what you can stand to walk away from, you will drastically reduce the possibility that you’ll end up handing your entire life over to a perfect stranger. You might not like your spouse very much right now, but there’s still some room for common ground in many cases. For example, you both probably care about the kid’s well-being.
There are three caveats to this strategy.
Caveat number one: you want to set goals, but you want to stay flexible too. It may be that we can get you close to what you want, but can’t make the exact arrangements you seek. It’s a good idea to recognize when you’re “close enough.” Remember, quibbling over the details usually just escalates matters while vastly decreasing your chances of getting closer to your goals.
Caveat number two: it needs to be realistic. No, you’re not going to walk off with 90% of the assets, and nobody sane will agree to that. You’re probably not going to get a spousal support settlement that sets you up for life, either. Read up on equitable distribution and set your goals with those principles in mind.
Caveat number three: obviously some items are non-negotiable and worth taking all the way to a judge, if necessary. If your spouse is an abusive drug addict then fighting for sole custody over your children makes perfect sense. If this is the case, we should know, because those types usually force us to go to court no matter what. We can spend our energy trying to protect you instead of trying to settle with someone who can’t be settled with.
Need help defining your divorce goals?
It’s perfectly okay to need a little guidance for what a reasonable set of divorce goals might be. If this is you, call Sadek & Cooper to schedule your free consultation today. We’ll be more than happy to sit down with you, have a look at your situation, and work with you to find targets you’d be happy to shoot for.