Although you will not be able to eliminate all the stress from a divorce, settling out of court can allow you to save time and money. Decisions on asset division, child maintenance and living arrangements can be agreed upon until a final hearing where a court will accept a reasonable settlement proposition. In this article, we provide tips on how you can settle your divorce without going to court.
- Gain knowledge about the law
Some people can be surprised about where the law sits on matters involving the division of financial assets. For instance, the law typically starts negotiations from a 50/50 split standpoint, aiming for equality, however, judges do have the power of discretion and can use the specific facts of a case to make their final decision. An example of this is the ND V LD case where a couples’ debts were greater than their savings. If you think your spouse may have debts, or there are limited financial assets in your divorce this case is helpful in learning what a judge’s ruling could be if you make a proposal to settle out of court. Gaining knowledge like this is arguably more useful than referring to what happened in a friend’s case or making presumptions about what you perceive as fair.
- Keep calm
Easier said than done during a divorce but if you take some time to stay focussed and learn what matters could potentially upset you in your divorce, you will be better equipped to deal with a settlement out of court. Look at the facts of your case and understand what could set off an emotional reaction in you. Practise talking about the issue with a friend, exploring the reactions you may receive from your spouse while learning to stay calm at the same time. This can be beneficial for when you are in the process of negotiating with your soon to be ex, as you have already gone through your initial reactions.
- Identify the outcome you want
In the middle of an emotional discussion with your ex it can be easy to go off track and become angry or upset, detracting both parties from settling the issues in question. Again, sit down with a friend, colleague or family member and write down the reasonable outcomes you want from the divorce. This will help you stay focussed on the endgame and learn how to ignore negative feelings in the height of negotiations.
- Learn the art of communication
Although all of us communicate daily, learning how to speak, listen and understand is a real art form that can be learned. Appreciate how tone of voice, insinuation and sarcasm can negatively contribute to poor communication and ultimately a breakdown in discussions. Using straightforward language and avoiding saying what you refuse to do will not work when you are trying to reach a settlement with your spouse. Try not to criticise or speak in a condescending manner. Most former spouses know what could trigger the other so make a conscious effort to steer away from each other’s vulnerabilities. Remember that good communication relies on both parties, if you are at the stage where your discussions are no longer fruitful, then consider getting negotiation support.
- Consider mediation
A form of dispute resolution, mediation is a popular way of reaching a divorce settlement out of court. In mediation a third party supports couples in resolving disagreements out of court. They do not take sides or provide a final decision but although the settlement may not be legally binding, it provides a contract that is enforceable. Overall, mediation offers couples more control over the outcome, a reduction in costs, and confidentiality.