Protecting Against a Negotiation Breakdown

I commend my clients who are determined to settle their divorces out of court.  I’ve mentioned the advantages of uncontested divorce many times on this blog.  The benefits include control over one’s divorce agreement, control over the timeline, control over the tone of the divorce, and control over the attorney’s fees. 

That said, it’s possible to waste time if you commit to negotiation and then the negotiation has a complete breakdown.  Negotiations break down for a number of reasons.  Perhaps one party learns about something new in negotiation, like a concealed asset, about which the parties cannot agree.  Perhaps one party enters the negotiation in bad faith, deliberately trying to stretch out the amount of time before the parties enter the court system for alimony purposes.  Or perhaps one of the attorneys is not negotiation-minded and discourages settlement even though the parties are in agreement.

In a negotiation breakdown, the parties must begin the divorce process with the court by filing a contested complaint and waiting for a hearing date.  In order to save time, talk to your attorney about whether you should file a contested divorce before/during negotiation and then convert it to an uncontested divorce once you settle.  This approach preemptively places you on the court’s calendar, so you do not have to wait if your negotiation breaks down. 

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