Lately, it seems like I have many clients who are trying to settle their divorce issues directly with their husband our wife in order to get the case over and ultimately, to save money. I certainly understand the desire to keep cost down in a divorce. But, you have to make sure you’re not rushing your own thought process because you might regret your decision later. I always tell my clients during the divorce, a client who says “I just want this over with” usually makes a bad decision. Take a deep breath and step back for a moment. At a minimum, a divorce with children is going to take 6 months so there’s no real rush.
The issues that husbands and wives usually try to settle between themselves are custody, parenting time and property issues. Whether you and your spouse can effectively work out your differences without your lawyers is a matter of dynamics. Certainly, if there’s any history of abuse, then I highly recommend that you do not engage in direct negotiation with your spouse. The same would be true when there are serious trust issues particularly if there has been financial manipulation or infidelity/cheating.
Nevertheless, if you and your husband or wife can talk rationally, it is certainly worth the two of you trying to talk things out. If you have children, even after you’re divorced, you’re going to have to communicate anyway so being civil during the divorce process is a good starting point for your “post divorce” life. However, if your husband or wife is simply being unreasonable and making demands that you know you will never agree to, then leave the negotiations to your lawyer. You should advise your lawyer as to any agreements that were made (hopefully your husband or wife won’t renege. . . that happens A LOT!) so that they can be reduced to writing and/or incorporated into a judgment of divorce.
Finally, with respect to how cost affects divorce negotiations, I tell all my clients that it is certainly not worth spending $2,000 to fight over $200. . . but, you cannot put a price tag on “peace of mind”. You must, with the help of your attorney during the divorce process, figure out how far you are willing to compromise on custody, parenting time or property division so as to achieve a fair result and peace of mind. If you give up too much in the way of custody, parenting time or property, you are likely to regret it later.
The problem with directly