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.