Going through a divorce is always stressful, but you can save money, time, and worry by entering into a settlement agreement instead of going to Court.
Whether you have spousal maintenance (“alimony”), child support, parenting time, legal decision-making, or marital property issues, you are allowed to work out an agreement with your spouse so that you do not have to spend weeks, months, or even years fighting it out in the legal system.
You can enter into a divorce agreement at any time up until, or even at your final hearing, without any penalty or pressure from the Court.
While the judge is willing to hear your divorce case and decide the issues for you, the Court will accept a reasonable divorce settlement agreement instead.
In fact, the judge will be happy that you have saved judicial resources by taking care of matters yourselves.
Steps to Settling A Divorce Out of Court
You will need to complete some basic tasks in order to come up with a fair settlement agreement because you will need to figure out how to deal with property division, caring for your children, spousal maintenance, and other important factors.
If you are patient and go through the divorce process one step at a time, you can get through your divorce case and move on with your life.
Step 1: Speak to a Divorce Lawyer
Even if your split is amicable, you should seek legal advice from the beginning of the divorce process.
The Court will hold you responsible for following all the rules, whether or not you are using a divorce attorney for advice.
You could be penalized or even have your case dismissed because you missed a deadline.
Having an attorney on your side will also help keep you focused and feeling stronger during the divorce process.
As far as basic legal tasks, you will still need to file a divorce petition and any other paperwork required by state law, such as a child support worksheet.
Your attorney can help by preparing the paperwork and making sure it follows your wishes.
Step 2: Schedule Some Time to Talk to Your Spouse
Meet in a neutral place and have an honest, calm discussion about what you want from the divorce. There may be issues that are more important to you than your spouse, and vice versa.
Finding a place to meet in the middle will give you a good place to start negotiating. Although, this may not be appropriate if there are instances of abuse.
On another note, be careful of signing or otherwise entering into any agreements before you fully understand the impact of those agreements.
It is perfectly acceptable to review the proposals with an attorney before reaching an agreement.
Step 3: Gather All Your Financial Information
You will need to have all of your financial information to consider child support, spousal maintenance, property division, and possibly other important matters.
Your divorce attorney can assist you in finding all the documents you need and figuring out how to make a plan based on your personal financial information.
Step 4: Create a Parenting Plan
If you have children, they are probably your biggest priority. What should the parenting time schedule be? Can you get along well enough to co-parent? How much will child support be?
Your divorce attorney or child support attorney can help you fill out the child support worksheet with the necessary information. There are several factors to consider when calculating child support.
Family law attorneys are familiar with all the issues regarding divorce laws, and they can help to find a plan that will fit your family’s needs.
Step 5: Work With a Mediator Or Other Alternative Dispute Resolution If You Need To
If you don’t agree with what your soon-to-be ex-spouse is proposing, you don’t have to sign the agreement. There are other steps you can take so you can still avoid a court divorce.
If you simply can’t agree even after honest negotiations, you can agree to have a neutral third party help you work out the issues in a mediation process.
There is more than one type of alternative dispute resolution, and your divorce attorney can help you figure out which one might help you the most.
Step 6: Submit Your Divorce Agreement to the Court
Once you have an agreement, you and your spouse can sign it with your attorneys and present it to the judge.
The agreement is a contract, and once signed, you will likely be bound by it.
The judge will then review the decree to ensure it meets all applicable state laws and then enter the agreement as a final court order.
Benefits Of Settling Out of Court
Not all divorcing couples are able to look past their anger and work out their issues.
Even with a neutral third party to help negotiate the issues, some couples simply can’t reach common ground.
Some of the hardest cases are ones where there has been infidelity or domestic violence.
However, for those who are able to enter into a settlement agreement, there are multiple benefits and rarely a downside.
You Will Save Time By Entering Into an Agreement
When couples choose to fight in the courts to get what they want from the remnants of their marriage, the divorce process can drag on for months or even years.
Parties on each side can end up in an endless loop of filing and responding to paperwork. Instead of getting to the end of the process, you may feel as though you are in an endless state of waiting.
You Will Save Money
Every time your attorney files or response to paperwork, you will pay the legal fees for that service. You will also pay for court hearings and any other work your attorney has to do on your behalf.
When the process finally ends in a divorce trial, you may have spent several thousand dollars. Out-of-court settlements are much less expensive than court divorces.
A Mutual Agreement Will Cut Down On Stress
One of the biggest benefits of an uncontested divorce is that you will feel less pressure and stress.
You can make a commitment at the beginning to work out your issues, and if you work through your issues in good faith, you will avoid many of the negative feelings people associate with divorce.
You Will Have the Satisfaction of Knowing You Worked Out Your Own Issues
Getting divorced can feel like giving up. When you work through your issues with your ex-spouse, you can feel the satisfaction of knowing that you have managed to handle issues that looked overwhelming in the beginning.
You can start to reclaim the power you feel you lost when your marriage broke up.
Going to Court Can Be Unpredictable
Even if the issues seem cut and dry, you are always taking a chance when you go to Court. A judge can be unpredictable.
If you have already negotiated a fair settlement, you will know what to expect.
Do You Need Help With an Uncontested Divorce?
Burggraff Tash Levy is a family law firm operating out of Scottsdale, Arizona. We assist families with several kinds of legal issues, including divorce.
With reasonable legal fees and frank, honest advice, we strive to give our clients legal assistance so they can make the right choices for their families.