Divorce Negotiation Rule Four - Make Full Disclosure Voluntarily and Freely
Key Points
  • Negotiating a fair and equitable settlement means being open and honest and not giving the appearance that you are trying to hide information.
  • Couples should, even though they often do not want to, disclose all aspects about the marriage, assets, debts, and any financial investments.
  • Making full disclosure, voluntarily and freely helps move the negotiations along smoothly.

Ask yourself: Are you more likely to settle a case where the other side has given you everything you need voluntarily, freely and openly or where they stonewall discovery? The answer is obvious. Where the other side treats financial information as if it were a highly classified government secret, it makes settlement less likely. This tactic brings out the "What are they trying to hide?" question. This sort of mistrust is not conducive to settlement.

Further, there is always the ugly aspect of risking malpractice in recommending a settlement to a client based upon insufficient discovery information. If a lawyer does not believe that he or she has full disclosure, it is the lawyer's insurance on the line if the lawyer recommends a settlement. Many a lawyer will recommend a trial rather than a settlement to avoid such a risk.

On the other hand, here is a tactic which my office has used with great success in encouraging settlement: Where you represent the side with all the information, give it to the other side before they ask for it. After all, you know what they will need in order to settle the case. Instead of waiting for the initial request for tax returns, retirement plan information and the like, have your client compile it. Then, give it to the other side, organized and indexed. Tell the other side that you are doing it to promote an atmosphere for settlement and to save costs for both parties. You should also explain that the information is not exclusive and that your client will be pleased to also provide any additional relevant information which you might have inadvertently omitted.

By providing this information even before a request is made, you will have accomplished at least two positive things. First, if any court intervention is requested by the other side regarding discovery, the court will be impressed by the voluntary provision of large amounts of financial documentation. At least in my jurisdiction, family courts dislike discovery motions and routinely order everything to be provided unless absolutely outrageous. Second, and more important, providing the information voluntarily creates the type of atmosphere which allows opposing counsel to enter into settlement negotiations without the paranoia inherent in the cases where the stonewall approach is used.

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Separation Agreement Software
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Separation Agreement Software
It is very difficult to move on with your life without getting the facts in writing, like, who gets what property and who is responsible for what debt, so a separation agreement outlines the rules in a legally binding format. Once you have a signed separation agreement you are on the right path to successfully negotiating your divorce settlement.

Suggested Reading
Fairshare Divorce for Women Fairshare Divorce for Women
Fair Share Divorce for Women is the first book that gives women the support and guidance they need to safeguard their marital assets. Too often women find themselves at a disadvantage when their marriage ends and they have to fight for what is rightfully theirs.

Author: Kathleen Miller, CFP, MBA

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