Friday, April 15, 2016

Should We Fight or Should We Talk?

For many people, the title states the choices they see when they approach a divorce (or a divorce approaches them!).

You might as well recognize that talking is the better option.  Here's why.

No matter how angry someone is at the beginning of a divorce, the parties almost always end up talking and reaching a settlement.  In some cases, though, the parties spend a lot of time fighting before they start seriously talking.

Divorce, contrary to popular perception, is ultimately a process of agreement, although many people manage to take detours onto argument trails and delays.  Fighting takes time and money, but some people get blinded by anger or a desire to punish or get revenge for their spouse's bad behavior, which may be real or imagined. In addition, many people wrongly assume that divorce centers around courtroom battles.

Eventually, fighting usually subsides as anger wanes, money is dissipated or the parties face a date in court.  Facing a choice between letting a Judge make all the decisions or making their own decisions on the outcome, most people choose to control their own destiny.

Here's a simplified version of the standard, Texas divorce process:

1.  File a Petition for Divorce.
2.  Get notice to the other party.
3.  Have a temporary hearing or hearings on various matters, or reach informal agreements.
4.  Gather information, either formally or informally.
5.  Negotiate to final agreement, very often in mediation, or in rare cases, have a final trial.
6.  Prepare a Final Decree of Divorce and get it signed by the Judge.

The opportunities to negotiate are numerous.
  • Prior to filing.
  • Immediately after filing.
  • At court, each time there's a hearing scheduled.
  • After the information is exchanged.
  • Informal final terms negotiations near the end of the case.
  • Mediation.
For the best results, I suggest that you:
  • Always be prepared to negotiate -- Get the information you need and make a plan for negotiations to create options to meet your needs.
  • Always be willing to negotiate -- Don't let anger or revenge keep you from doing what's best for you in the long run. 
Negotiating is a sign of intelligence, not weakness.

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