Direct settlement negotiations can do more harm than good


20208496_SWhen a divorce or family law case is filed, there is often a temptation for parties to engage in settlement negotiations themselves to try to end the case.  When an attorney in any way discourages this, parties can sometimes be offended.  They just have a hard time understanding why any attorney would advise them not to negotiate directly with their soon-to-be ex spouse (or the other party).

At the end of the day, bright line rules are hard to come by in any area of the law.  What works in one case might not work in another.  After all, every case deals with different parties, different facts and different personalities.  For this reason, there simply isn’t an approach that will work in every case.

However, as a general rule, direct negotiations between the parties in a divorce or family law matter often end up doing more harm than good.  This is the reality for several different reasons.

First, if parties were able to negotiate and compromise without the assistance of legal counsel, they might not be getting divorced (or be in the family court) in the first place.  They might have been able to compromise in their marriages or relationships such that litigation wouldn’t be necessary.  With litigation pending and emotions on the rise, why would parties be able to resolve their differences now when they couldn’t before?

The reality is that direct settlement negotiations often turns into an escalation of the conflict versus a de-escalation.   This can culminate in the parties re-debating the events that led up to the divorce or family law matter.  This can often cause more anger and hostility.  This anger and hostility can often result in more fuel being thrown into the fire.  In some cases, it can even result in orders of protection being filed or the police being called.

Even if the negotiations can remain peaceful, direct settlement negotiations can often leave out critical facts.  In some case, the parties might be able to agree on a lot of items.  They might call their attorneys and purport to them that a settlement has been reached.  But it might be that critical items were omitted that the attorneys then have to point out to the parties that could cause the settlement to still unravel.  In cases where the parties are not on an equal level of sophistication, one attorney might also believe that their client literally sold the farm to settle the case.  In other cases, the attorneys may begin to distrust each other because it appears as if one party desires to go around them with settlement offers.

At the end of the day, if a divorce or family law case has been filed, it’s best to work through your attorneys on settlement negotiations.  It is important to have an attorney (if you desire to settle) who will negotiate in good faith on your behalf.  An attorney can help ensure that emotions and anger do not come into play during the settlement negotiations.  They can also help ensure that all important considerations are being taken into account and that your interests are protected.  In some cases, the parties might also opt for mediation or collaborative law to try to resolve their family law matter.  But trying to negotiate directly can often cause more harm than good.

If you need help with a divorce or family law matter, Stange Law Firm, PC can help.  We have divorce lawyers in Missouri and Illinois who can assist you.  You can call us at 1-855-805-0595.

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