Keys to Negotiating a Fair Property Settlement
Divorce brings a lot of financial upheaval to both spouses, so the terms of the property settlement are key to finding short- and long- term stability as adjustments to additional expenses and less income are made. Florida follows an equitable distribution model for property division, which starts from the premise that the division of assets and liabilities should be equal, but will ultimately focus on the division that is most fair under the circumstances. In practice, and absent extenuating circumstances, divorcing couples can expect to receive a 60/40 split. This formula does not leave a lot of wiggle room if a person is expecting to depend upon these assets to get him/her through the transitionary period from married to single. To avoid substantial financial strain and disruption, negotiating a fair and well-thought-out property settlement agreement is crucial. Merely splitting assets down the middle, without considering the type of assets received and any restrictions or financial repercussions attached to accessing them, can greatly reduce the value of a property settlement. Actors Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner finally agreed to a property settlement, which will finalize their divorce more than three years after it was announced. While most couples do not take nearly so long to settle this issue, it does illustrate how pivotal this matter is. A discussion of what to consider during property settlement negotiations to achieve a fair outcome will follow below.
In order to make a reasoned decision about any proposed settlement agreement, a spouse must first understand the marital assets and liabilities the couple has. Thus, before walking up to the negotiation table, each spouse needs to educate him/herself about the collective finances the couple will need to divide. For a spouse who was less involved in the finances of the marriage, this may require some degree of catch-up to ensure all the relevant information is known and understood. This may necessitate consulting with a financial expert to review all relevant accounts, as well as input from an experienced divorce attorney about any legal implications of dividing certain assets. Having this information in hand when negotiations begin will allow a spouse to better determine which assets he/she really cares about keeping, as well as the minimum the spouse will need to move forward. This analysis will, most importantly, help the spouse to formulate a picture of the best and worst case outcomes, which will inform where it is better to accept an agreement or go to trial instead.
The Emotional Piece
The strong emotions of divorce cannot be overstated, and these can and likely will come into play during property settlement negotiations. Recognizing this dynamic is the first step to neutralizing its effect on any agreement a spouse may make. Specifically, figuring out the perceptions and emotions of the other spouse can help a person facilitate agreement by using these signposts as guides toward more creative thinking that will convince the other spouse to settle things at this stage. The important point is to preserve the relationship, especially if children are a factor, and working from a position of a willingness to compromise and acknowledgement of the other spouse’s goals will go a long way to achieving that end. To avoid personalizing every aspect of the negotiation process, though, it is key to focus on the points of disagreement and not the other spouse. Focusing on the spouse, instead of the issues, can lead to entrenched positions in hopes of punishing the spouse for past transgressions, a move that is more likely to cause negotiations to fail and require more complex and likely less satisfactory resolution through trial.
Get Legal Advice
You do not want to be dependent upon a judge’s evaluation of your marriage to divide your property. Instead, you need to understand what is fair, and how to create an arrangement that accounts for the circumstances of your family. The attorneys at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. can bring the legal representation piece to your negotiation, so that you really understand what is at stake, and which rights you hold. We have decades of experience helping Floridians with their divorces; contact our Fort Lauderdale law firm for a free consultation, and learn how we can support your divorce.