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by Susan Culpepper

The timing of a divorce negotiation can make a big difference to your end result. It is often said
that 99% of all divorce cases get settled on the courthouse steps! That is because both parties are
so nervous and under steep pressure from the court system to either settle their case or go
through an arduous trial, where the results are uncertain and may cause feelings of humiliation
and defeat. When a person is under this much pressure, and probably has not gotten much sleep
the night before, it is easy to become detached from rational thought and make bad choices that
you may not have rushed into on a better day.
When it comes to the big-ticket items, like the house; bank accounts and vehicles, attorneys are
skilled at giving good advice and working out the details with the other side. In most divorce
cases, the value of all of the marital assets will be totaled and divided between the two parties

and the pie can be sliced in many ways. If you think that you want to keep and live in the marital
home now, make sure that you will be able to afford the house note and all of the payments that
go with it like insurance; pest control; yard maintenance; utilities; taxes, etc. While equity in the
home may be traded for an antique vehicle, there is not going to be a huge disparity between one
person getting more value unless separate property (usually that which was owned before the
marriage or inherited) is involved.
One thing that does prevent a solid settlement from happening a week or more before the divorce
is the endless bickering about the “little things….,” like the dishes; the photo albums; the rocking
chair, fishing poles, etc. At the end of the day, when Court is over and the lawyers have been
paid, the most common story that lawyers like to share is the ridiculous amount of legal fees their
clients have spent on fighting over a set of dishes or the items left in the storage shed, which has
not been opened in 15 years!
It is important to realize that fighting over the little things is more about emotions filled with
nostalgia; resentment and anger, than about what is truly important going forward. Photo albums
can be copied and all marital remnants can be replaced or forgotten with time. Keep the old
saying in mind, “don’t sweat the small stuff,” as you begin to move forward with a brand new
and exciting chapter of your life!
When in the middle of a divorce negotiation, try to think things through rationally; talk to your
attorney early on about the negotiation process; get a lot of rest, and don’t wait until the last
minute to explore the option of setting your case.

It is so important to stay level headed and reflect on your true intentions when working to negotiate your divorce settlement.  What matters the most to you now, may not be in your best financial interest in the future; and certainly, the children, if any, must take priority when making serious decisions that have long term consequences.

When you live with another person for a long period of time, it is not be hard to figure out what emotional triggers will be activated by certain items on the table in a property settlement dispute.  For example, if your spouse spent an entire year of blood, sweat and tears building and refinishing an antique desk, you can bet that the desk will be listed in his “keep” column. Most importantly, he or she may be willing to take responsibility for an outstanding marital debt, in order to keep it, because the desk holds a greater emotional value. A person who worked for one company for the past 20 years and is vested in a pension plan, will be much more reluctant to divide that in half, so he or she may be willing to give up something of even greater value in order to keep it in tact.  

 Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, because divorce brings up so many emotions, that it is easy to get sucked into the spiral of fighting over that desk or retirement account, simply because you do not want the other person to be satisfied and get something that you do not feel they deserve.  However, if you remain calm and really think things through, from this perspective, you will undoubtedly come out on top.

When you can practice is keeping your wits about you and listen to your attorney’s advice when you really feel that they are looking out for your best interest.  Also, you must realize that the passage of time may significantly change your perception of what is most important to your quality of life in the long term, so that you are better able to make lasting decisions that are sound.  In terms of lasting benefits, it is always a good practice to negotiate wisely when it comes to taking on debt; paying for college tuition; keeping real estate; and having monthly bills or insurance paid for a length of time to gain some financial freedom.  The long list of items in the storage shed that has not been opened in 15 years can be generously offered to the other side for something that will lead to your financial freedom, which is the greatest asset of all!

At this juncture it is important to realize that across the board, every family lawyer is going to have similar knowledge of the laws that will affect your divorce case. There are no secrets.

What separates a lawyer from the pack is the unique legal strategy chosen, which governs how the shape of your divorce proceedings will likely unfold; the personal attention given to your case; the communication style used with you, your family members; other attorneys; and the Court; and the advice that you are given in how to proceed.