Many clients think that once they hire a divorce attorney, they are setting themselves up for protracted litigation. In fact, most attorneys are skilled at negotiation and work hard to help clients settle their cases without ever stepping foot in a courtroom. This is not a sign of weakness but rather a practical solution. Litigation can be risky and expensive. Outcomes are not guaranteed. When clients settle a matter, they keep some modicum of control in a situation that is often out of control and highly emotional.
I recently wrote an article for the American Bar Association’s Family Advocate. This article, Preparing A Client For Settlement discusses in detail how attorneys can assist clients in reaching a settlement of their divorce matter.
The process of settlement commences with the initial consultation. It is during this time that the seeds of settlement are sown. When assisting a client in understanding the divorce process, it is crucial that settlement is discussed as a viable outcome. It is necessary to impart this information early in the process so that a client truly understands all the options.
Gathering the financial details so that the all aspects of the marital estate are known is crucial whether settling the case or proceeding to trial. Without full and accurate disclosure and valuation of assets/debt, it is impossible to understand whether a settlement proposal is even viable.
Once the marital estate is fully understood, settlement discussions can ensue. There are a number of ways in which this can happen — mediation, arbitration, four-way meetings, etc. Each option has its positive and negative aspects. The most important element is that the client fully understands and appreciates the choices available and is fully on board with any settlement decision that is made.