No one wishes to spend a lot of money on their divorce. This statement has always been true for most families, and it’s even more true today as Illinois families struggle with houses “under water,” and employment opportunities lessened by the economic collapse. One good way for litigants to avoid spending a lot of money on their divorce is to make a sincere effort to avoid contested court litigation and a final trial on the divorce issues. Trials, as you might imagine, take a lot of attorney preparation time and actual court time. Trials are expensive.
To avoid trial the effort must be made to negotiate a settlement. Reaching settlement is desirable, but many people find that when they are dealing with issues of custody, spousal support, and division of property, that reaching settlements is difficult.
Through many years of experience as a trial lawyer, I have developed some key points for success through negotiating settlements. Here are a few:
1. Know your true goals and be aware of what you really need from the settlement.
2. Know your opposition. No one knows your spouse and their predispositions and deal points better than you. As your attorney, I know the case, the law, the judge’s positions on certain matters, and the negotiating abilities of opposing counsel. We work together as partners to set goals and achieve them in negotiation.
3 Prepare for the negotiation… point by point. Be ready to have command of all necessary financial and child custody facts.
4 Anticipate reactions, objections and responses. Be ready with counter-proposals to address objections or stalemates in the negotiation.
5 Prepare options rather than ultimatums. Successful negotiations usually do not include ultimatums. When negotiating, it is important not to set “take it or leave it” positions, as these positions psychologically set a benchmark that the opposing party then uses to negotiate off of. The best deals are made gradually, with concessions structured into the negotiation, with the end goal deal points firmly in mind.
Some parties in divorce end up in a costly trial only because their lawyer could not find a means to conduct a successful negotiation. My goal with my clients is to use the art of negotiation to help them achieve their goals, while at the same time, saving them the cost and expenses of a trial, when possible.