What To Expect At Your Divorce Settlement Conference
One of the biggest secrets about divorce is that the vast majority of divorce cases never go to trial. Unlike what’s depicted in movies and on television, most couples getting divorced go through a settlement process that is negotiated by each party’s attorneys. As part of the settlement process, you and your ex may opt for (or be required to participate in) something called a divorce settlement conference.
What Is A Divorce Settlement Conference?
A divorce settlement conference is a fancy name for getting you, your ex, and your respective attorneys in the same room and negotiating the terms of your divorce. The ultimate goal is to reach a final settlement agreement that can be taken to a judge.
If an agreement can is reached, you and your spouse will not need to go to trial. This will save both of you considerable time, money, and frustration. The other benefit is that reaching an agreement without going to trial means it won’t be up to a judge to decide things like division of property, child custody, and spousal support.
What Happens At A Divorce Settlement Conference?
When you arrive for your divorce settlement conference, it will be you, your attorney, your ex-spouse, his or her attorney, and a supervisor or mediator of some kind. The role of the supervisor or mediator is to provide some formal structure to the conference and be a neutral third party who can attempt to resolve disputes.
The mediator or supervisor will typically be an active or retired judge, professional mediator, or attorney. If you and your spouse voluntarily decide to have a divorce settlement conference, it can be unsupervised if you both agree to it.
Keep in mind that not all divorces are resolved after only one settlement conference. Many divorce cases go through several conferences over the span of weeks, months, and occasionally, years before a final agreement is reached.
Pros & Cons Of A Divorce Settlement Conference
In all but the most contentious cases, going through a divorce settlement conference is a better idea than going straight to trial. Some things to consider:
- Reaching a settlement avoids a trial. Trials are long, unpredictable, and expensive.
- A structured settlement process (with a mediator) is likely to be more productive for both parties. Settlement conferences have a higher chance of each spouse getting the things they want.
- Important issues like child custody, spousal support, and parenting plans can be discussed in detail and not left up to a judge to decide.
- If a final agreement is not reached, nothing discussed in the negotiations can be used in a trial.
- In some cases, the act of sitting across from your ex-spouse can stir up significant feelings of anger, resentment, guilt, and other difficult emotions. The mental and emotional strain of a settlement conference may be too much for either or both parties to bear.
- If you feel that, no matter what, a settlement conference will not produce a fair and equitable agreement for you, it may be better to let a judge decide.
At the end of the day, you have almost nothing to lose and everything to gain by participating in a settlement conference. Even if it doesn’t lead to a final agreement.
Preparing For Your Divorce Settlement Conference
It’s important to prepare for your settlement conference with your attorney before showing up. Your attorney will likely discuss goals and objectives with you a few days or even weeks before your conference happens.
The most important thing you can do is to remember that this is a process of negotiation, and you need to be prepared for some give and take. If you go in with the idea that you won’t be happy unless you get exactly what you want, your divorce settlement conference will likely fail.
To learn more about the divorce settlement process, or to speak with an attorney today, please contact our office at your convenience.
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