Family Law Negotiation

Negotiation is an effort to compromise, bargaining with each other in an attempt to reach an agreement. It can happen any time, on any matter, regardless of whether someone has filed a lawsuit such as a case for child custody case or equitable distribution, i.e., the division of marital property and debt. Your attorney might prepare a settlement offer such as a separation agreement, or a consent order, an agreed-upon order signed the judge, to send to the other side. Or, your attorney might receive a settlement offer.

Once the attorney and client decide what to do with the offer, he or she will contact the other side. If the attorneys feel that the parties are close enough to reaching an agreement to warrant it, they will respond by making minor changes (or sometimes major cases) to the original offer. They might send requested changes back and forth until both sides agree to a final version.

However, clients are sometimes disappointed to learn that attorneys have no way to force the other side to respond to the offer. The other attorney can absolutely toss it into the trash without so much as an e-mail saying the offer is rejected. But more often than not, both sides have financial or other incentives to attempt settlement of their case. The alternative of court means giving the decision to a judge, a complete stranger.

Ultimately, clients have the right to make their own decisions about whether to go to court or settle out-of-court, by signing a separation agreement for example. It is your attorney’s job to advise you about your rights and obligations. However, only the client decides his or her bottom line and how to get there.


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