Step Five – Negotiate with Your Spouse

Once you and your attorney are comfortable you have all the information you need, and you have formulated your reasonable settlement position, you and your attorney should talk about a plan to begin a settlement dialogue with your spouse. If there has been a formal pre-filing negotiation plan entered, this will likely be set forth as part of the structure.  Either way, discussions with your spouse must be handled carefully.

Usually, it is best for only the attorneys to discuss settlement.  If a formal written negotiating process agreement has been entered, it will likely state that there will be one or more settlement or mediated settlement conferences.  But if you are going to talk to your spouse about settlement directly (it will come up), you should never discuss divorce terms in the marital residence or while either of you are angry.  You should only discuss this in a forum that will encourage you both to stay calm, cool and collected - a nice restaurant for example. 

Be mindful that anything you say to your spouse can be used against you in court.  You should explain to your spouse that this will take time and that you do not have to agree on everything at once to make progress.  Again, if an argument is brewing, it is generally best just to say - let the lawyers handle this - and move on with you day.   

As noted in Step One, to help facilitate a settlement, you should encourage your spouse to engage an attorney who, like Mr. Hippe, will commit to attempt to resolve the matter in good faith – enter a formal pre-fling negotiation process agreement and / or actually sit down in a conference room and hash this out – after all financial information has been exchanged - before an action is filed and the legal expense gets out of hand.  Good attorneys will work together to help reasonable parties reach a resolution without needlessly involving the courts.

To facilitate, Mr. Hippe drafted the Pledge that you should encourage your spouse to read.  Your spouse should ask his or her attorney to accept this.  If both attorney's have accepted, and there has been a full exchange of all important financial information per Step Three, and you both have counseling per Step Two, then you should be able to settle your case fully and amicably - saving tens of thousands of dollars in expense. 

This can be done in a settlement conference at one or the lawyer's offices or it can be done with a mediator (or it may be stipulated in the formal pre-filing agreement).  Usually, involving a experienced, strong mediator who knows the judges in your county is extremely helpful.