“Can my spouse and I conduct our own negotiations without our lawyers present? Of course, we’d each have our own lawyer look over any agreement before we signed it.”
If you have the ability to peacefully discuss the issues involved in the divorce (such as custody, visitation, and property division), then I encourage you to open a dialogue with your spouse. However, it is important that you talk to an attorney prior to discussing the issues with your spouse, so that you understand the parameters of your legal rights. Once you and your spouse understand the issues involved, you can then begin to negotiate. Throughout the negotiations, you should stay in contact with your attorney to avoid bargaining away any rights you may have. Conducting negotiations directly with your spouse can greatly minimize your legal costs.
Through open communication with your spouse, adversarial confrontations, including litigation in court, are often lessened, which is always beneficial to your and your children’s mental health. There also may be certain priorities that you and your spouse have and want incorporated into the agreement. For instance, you may want to keep the marital home and ensure you have enough cash flow to provide for the monthly expenses associated with it; whereas your spouse’s first priority may be to receive future retirement benefits. If you can effectively express your priorities to your spouse and resolve your issues, it will help provide you with the peace of mind that your main objectives were met and help you to feel comfortable with the outcome of the divorce. Divorce can be a stressful time in your life, but keeping lines of communication open with your spouse and limiting confrontation and anger will ease the tension you may be feeling.
Jeffrey W. Brend is a CPA and family-law attorney practicing with Chicago law firm Levin & Brend, P.C. He is the only person in the country affiliated with both the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the American Society of Appraisers. He can be reached at (312) 726-4440. View his Divorce Magazineprofile.