Avoiding Common Settlement Mistakes

In today’s court system, most family law cases end with a settlement agreement.  This includes not only divorces, but post-divorce modifications, custody cases, child support issues, spousal support modifications, and any of the other myriad issues involved in family law.  Settlement can be a very advantageous conclusion to both parties.  It lets both parties tailor-make solutions for their issues and their family.  However, there are some common settlement mistakes you should be careful to avoid.

First is settling before any discovery has been exchanged.  During discovery, the parties will exchange documents and information, allowing both sides to know what evidence exists.  In family law cases, this would include balances in retirement accounts, credit card debt amounts, the value of a family business, or a recent appraisal for the marital residence.  In New Jersey, the marital debt and marital property will be equitably divided between the spouses.  If you have not conducted discovery, it is possible you may be settling without a real understanding of the marital estate.  Without this, you could be giving up a claim to more assets or taking on more debt than is necessary.  Settling too soon could have far reaching impact on your future life and should be avoided.

Second is settling “just to get it over with.”  Family law cases necessarily involve high emotions.  People are hurt and angry, and it is difficult to separate your emotions from the dollars and cents of dividing property or calculating child support.  It is tempting to just accept whatever settlement offer your spouse has proposed just to get the divorce done.  This is often a mistake.  Your attorney can help provide you with the grounding necessary to avoid making an emotional decision that could result in you giving up too large a share of the marital assets or not fighting for all of the visitation you could be entitled to.  It is tough to stick through a divorce and fight for a better settlement, but it is important that you do so. Once you have signed a settlement agreement, it’s final except under very rare circumstances.

Finally, many people make the mistake of trying to avoid disclosing all of their assets or hiding certain potential custody stumbling blocks, such as an intention to relocate shortly after the divorce.  While this may seem to save you time and aggravation in the short-term, when your spouse takes you back to court after the divorce is over accusing you of fraud, he or she may very well be able to undo the divorce agreement because you were not completely open and acting in good faith during the settlement negotiations.  You should be open about your intentions and disclose your assets fully.

The importance of creating a well-crafted and thoughtful settlement agreement cannot be understated. Call us today at (732) 529-6937 and we can talk your divorce and your future.
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