Many procedures may be used. There is the customary attorney-to-attorney process where spouses have their lawyers communicate with each other and represent the parties in settlement negotiations and legal proceedings.
The spouses can also undergo mediation where an agreed-upon, independent and neutral person guides confidential settlement discussions. An attorney may represent each spouse and help them prepare settlement documents.
In a collaborative divorce, a specially trained team of the spouses’ attorneys, neutral professionals such as a certified divorced financial analyst or a child specialist meet as a team with the couple to try to reach a settlement. Lawyers agree not to go to court, even if there is no settlement.
If the parties cannot reach a settlement, a judge may impose an order. In very uncomplicated cases, spouses can agree to settle matters and file the paperwork themselves. But they still risk missing an important legal issue or giving up rights.
It is important to collect financial information on incomes, assets and debts, pay statements, tax documents, bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, pensions, business interests and liabilities such as mortgages, loans and credit card debt. Some of this work may be performed online and shared through secure online portals with your representatives. Information may need updated if there are disagreements on setting a valuation date for assets and income.
Creating a budget is important for covering essential and discretionary expenses. This is also helpful for negotiating spousal and child support. Expenses may have changed over the last few months, so it is important to review credit card transactions and checking accounts. Similarly, review whether your living arrangements fall within your budget, the impact of any drops in real estate values, and whether real estate transactions may be conducted.
Carefully consider fair and workable co-parenting plans for the children’s travel and living arrangements. anticipate possible changes to school schedules and activities over the next few months.
Finally, parties and courts are using more video-conferencing and other technologies instead of face-to-face meetings. Parties should prepare for this, assuring privacy and using break-out rooms. They should agree to measures when in-person meetings are needed.
An attorney can assist with these preparations. They can also help pursue a fair and reasonable decree.