What You Should Know About Divorce Settlement Conferences

A divorce can be a complex process, but many divorces in New Mexico settle without the spouses ever going to trial. To settle means that both spouses have agreed on a divorce settlement they negotiated together, and they’ve submitted that agreement to the court for approval. As a part of this process, a couple getting divorced may have to take part in a settlement conference. If you have one of these conferences scheduled in your case, make sure you know what the conference is, how it will impact you, and what you have to do to prepare before you attend.

What Happens at a Divorce Settlement Conference?

The conference is meant to give divorcing spouses a chance to review all the issues of the divorce and work toward a settlement together instead of having the court decide these matters for them. These meetings usually involve dispute resolution techniques and more structured negotiations. If the conference is mandatory (required by the court), it may take place in a courtroom with a supervisor, such as an attorney or mediator. A voluntary conference can be unsupervised and usually only involves the spouses and their family law attorneys. A conference can take place over several days or last just a few hours, depending on how things go and what needs to be addressed and agreed upon.
If the spouses are able to reach an agreement during the settlement conference, their attorney will draw up an agreement that both spouses must sign. Once this is done, the steps needed to finalize the divorce begin.

Pros and Cons of Divorce Settlement

If you are willing to negotiate and prepare, there’s not much of a downside to taking part in a divorce settlement conference, but there are many pros. A trial can be unpredictable, long and costly, and the settlement is preferable. If you are in a contentious divorce, you still may fare well in a structured conference where other people–such as your attorneys–are doing most of the talking instead of you and your spouse. The settlement process can be helpful in resolving complex issues, such as division of assets, child custody, and parenting plans.
The major con of a settlement approach is that you may realize your best strategy is going to be a trial during the process. This may stem from major disagreements over important issues or a lack of cooperation on the part of one spouse. In this situation, you can discuss ending the conference and going to trial instead with your attorney.

Preparing for Your Conference

Before you attend your divorce settlement conference, speak to your attorney about preparation. This should involve setting some goals and getting the documents and other evidence you need to support your goals together ahead of time. Since this will be a give-and-take process, you need to identify which areas you are willing to negotiate in exchange for reaching your most important goals in the end.
Before you attend your conference, make sure you are fully informed about all the aspects of your case. You need to make sure you understand what terms you are agreeing to and how they will affect your life now and in the future once you’ve reached a settlement.
If you have questions or concerns about your conference before, during or after it, be sure to discuss them with your family law attorney as soon as they arise. Your attorney will be at your side to help you reach your goals, answer your questions and keep you informed throughout the entire process so you always know exactly what is happening in your case.