Many couples choose to negotiate together without the help of outside professionals. Negotiating a settlement with your spouse is far less expensive and time-consuming than fighting with your spouse in court. While this may work for some couples, it is not for everyone.  It is never advisable to negotiate something as emotional as your own divorce with someone you can barely stand to speak to you anymore.

To determine if you should negotiate your own settlement, ask yourself the following questions. If your answer to any of them is ‘no’, you should consult with an experienced family lawyer.

1. Do You Fully Understand Your Finances?

If you don’t understand your finances, you need to get help before you can negotiate. It is imperative that you do not attempt to negotiate anything yourself unless you have a firm grasp on your finances and you understand your assets and debts. The cost of hiring a lawyer to negotiate on your behalf is negligible compared to what you could lose by negotiating a bad deal for yourself because you do not have a firm grasp of your finances. A good family lawyer will have plenty of experience negotiating settlements and will know what financial information to look for, how to get it, and if necessary, what experts to hire.

2. Do You Know What the Law Requires When It Comes to Your Kids?

Divorcing parents sometimes think that they can negotiate a settlement because they both want what is best for their kids. But Ontario has a complex set of child support laws, and the average person can have a difficult time making sense of them. Judges care about children and their needs and will require that your parenting schedule allows both you and your spouse to have a relationship with your kids. Judges will also require that you comply with the child support laws and a good lawyer will be able to help you negotiate an agreement that will be acceptable to a judge.

3. Are Your Emotions in Check?

Can you and your spouse sit down together amicably to draft a divorce settlement together? Can you even stand being in the same room together? Nothing will derail your negotiation attempts than falling back into the same argument you have had with your spouse for the last few years of your marriage. Having a lawyer present can help neutralize a potentially explosive conflict and help you and your spouse come to a fair agreement faster.

4. Do You Know What You Want and What You Need?

It is important to be precise about what you think is fair.  Create a detailed budget and make a list of all of the things you want. What can you live with and what can you live without? It is important to have a plan before you start negotiating. What is your bottom line? If your spouse is being unreasonable and won’t agree to terms that you can live with, you have to be ready to walk away.

5. Have You Considered Alternative Options?

It is very easy to get stuck in a negotiation rut when you see things one way and your spouse sees things another way. Alawyer can help you brainstorm alternative settlement scenarios that can meet your needs, your spouse’s needs and your children’s needs. A lawyer can also refer you to a financial advisor who can also help you come up with creative settlement solutions. The more options you have to choose from, the more likely it is that you will land on a settlement that works for everyone. A good family lawyer will help you discover those options.

For more information and to speak with an experienced family lawyer, please contact Jason P. Howie online or at 519.973.1500.