When Do You Stop Negotiating?

In negotiation, it’s necessary to know when to end negotiation efforts. If you don’t sufficiently attempt to settle, you may miss an opportunity to craft a settlement that meets the needs of both parties better than an order from the judge. On the other hand, if you hang on to negotiation attempts too long, you may reveal all your cards, giving opposing counsel ample time to construct counterarguments.

The length of negotiation should be determined by a cost-benefit analysis. Ask your attorney what the legal costs will be if you don’t settle at the temporary motion hearing? What if you don’t settle by the pre-trial conference? What if you don’t settle by trial? Most likely, twenty hours of negotiation costs far less than the price tag for trial. This is an analysis that your attorney should be willing to walk you through.

If you and your attorney assess that negotiation makes the most financial sense, next assess the likelihood that negotiation will lead to settlement. Is the opposing party softening? Does s/he seem willing to collaborate with you? Does the opposing party listen to your offers and contribute reasonable offers of his/her own? If you’re making progress, keep going. Even a partial stipulation should lessen the cost of trial.

How Does the Court Decide Custody in Divorces?

Custody is often a very emotionally-charged piece of divorce. Like many states in this country, Massachusetts uses a “best interests of the children” standard.

Generally speaking, in the absence of misconduct, the rights of both parents are held to be equal, and the court considers the “happiness and welfare of the children” to determine their custody. M.G.L. Ch. 208 Sec. 31. To determine “happiness and welfare of the children,” the court looks to how the present or past living conditions of the children impact the children’s physical, mental, moral, and emotional health.

With this knowledge, clients can negotiate their own custody arrangement outside of court. Once the parents have reached an agreement regarding custody, the court may enter an order which merges the provisions of the agreement related to the children. However, where there are specific findings that the parents’ agreement is not in the best interests of the children, the court may decline to accept the agreement.