Negotiated Settlements

If both parties are interested in avoiding court battles and are willing to work, in good faith, with each other  and/or with attorneys to negotiate an out-of-court settlement or participate in mediation or Collaboration, then this is best accomplished by:

  • voluntarily exchanging information about property, debts, income and expenses,
  • identifying the goals and needs of each party for dividing the property (real estate, furnishings, vehicles, bank accounts, investment accounts, businesses, retirement accounts, life insurance, etc.) and debts;
  • determining who needs what support and for how long,
  • cooperating to put the children first when creating a parenting plan; and
  • working with settlement attorneys to draft a comprehensive written agreement Separation & Property Settlement Agreement that addresses all the agreed upon terms and conditions.

With a signed comprehensive agreement in place, then either party may go forward with a no-fault divorce at the end of the separation period. The agreement becomes part of the final order of divorce.

Advantages of Negotiated Settlement

  • Private.

    Court is a public process. In an out-of-court negotiated settlement information exchange, discussions, and meetings are private.

  • May save time
    and money.

    Consider that more than 90% of cased filed in court settle before trial, but after the cost of extensive preparation, focusing on an out-of-court settlement avoids the cost and delays of trial preparation.

  • Decreases disruptions.

    Parties determine when they wish to exchange information and respond to settlement proposals. With a signed comprehensive agreement, they may seek a no-fault divorce without appearing in court.

  • Voluntary with parties in control of the outcome.

    Parties choose to work together to exchange financial information, consider each other’s needs and determine whether they reach agreement.

  • Greater compliance.

    Parties are more likely to abide by agreements they help design.

  • Children may experience less stress.

    When parents work together to design a parenting plan that puts their children first everyone in the family benefits.

Additional Considerations

  • Out-of-court negotiations rely upon the good faith of the parties and their commitment to cooperate, share information, and seek solutions that work for both, not just themselves.
  • Out-of-court settlement negotiations are voluntary, and one party can stall and delay progress by not timely responding to requests for information or settlement proposals.
  • Threats of court are not prohibited and the fear, costs and risks of what might happen in court can derail good intentions to settle matters out of court.
  • If you have limited access to financial information and your spouse is not willing to share information then consider a court-based process, Collaboration or mediation which require disclosure of information.

“After nearly 20 years as a divorce litigator, I welcome the opportunity to provide to families in Roanoke, the surrounding counties and throughout Southwest Virginia the opportunity to make informed, respectful decisions for restructuring their family, their finances and their futures through the Collaborative Divorce Process, Negotiated Settlements, Family Mediation, or Collaborative Mediation without resorting to contested court battles.”

Cheryl Watson Smith, Esq.