Negotiation plays a key role in California divorces

The mention of divorce usually brings up a host of unpleasant feelings for most spouses. Besides the obvious emotionality of ending a marriage, a common view of lawyers, judges and spouses is that the divorce process more often than not gives neither justice nor properly protects the interests of the people involved. The courts are overcrowded and few litigants really get their proper "day in court."

That does not have to be the case. It is true that a divorce that goes to court ends up being more lengthy and expensive than a divorce negotiated between the two soon-to-be exes. Some people even advocate avoiding obtaining legal representation altogether and obtaining a do-it-yourself divorce.

In the vast majority of cases, however, each side obtains representation by an attorney in order that they can negotiate a divorce between each side, avoid the courts and ensure that their financial and parental rights are protected moving forward.

Mediation does help

One option many California couples choose is mediation. In mediation, a neutral third-party acts as a go-between for the two parties. Since the mediator is neutral, each side retains his or her own representation, to ensure the legal language in the divorce agreement represents the intent of the parties and avoids unfair results.

Mediation, however, may not result in a final solution and may not be for everyone. That does not mean negotiation and an agreement are off the table. Negotiations through attorneys usually results in level-headed compromise without forcing a family court judge to decide matters.

If both sides are willing and able to reach a compromise, much of the contention and expense of divorce can be mitigated. Of course, some areas are non-negotiable for many people seeking divorce. If minor children are involved in the divorce and domestic abuse is a factor, for example, fighting for a child's or spouse's safety in court is paramount.

A realistic, negotiated divorce agreement is best

One of the benefits of mediation and representation is that it allows a couple some distance from the day-to-day interactions that led to the divorce in the first place. When negotiating a divorce agreement, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The goal of divorce is not to punish an ex, no matter what he or she did. Moving on with life in a manner that allows financial and personal freedom is the goal.
  • Children are not negotiating instruments and their best interests should always be the ultimate goal of any divorce agreement.
  • Finances are important. While it can be tempting to simply agree to a divorce settlement and "move on," there are real, life-altering issues at stake in a divorce. Maintaining one's rights and a realistic expectation of future finances are issues that need careful study and the sound advice of a party's legal representative.

Going through a divorce is difficult enough from an emotional perspective. People seeking a divorce should consult with an experienced divorce lawyer to discuss how best to move forward with their legal and financial options.