What is a Divorce Settlement Conference?
In an effort to resolve issues in a divorce case, some couples may attend a settlement conference. Divorce conferences can either be mandatory or voluntary, and sometimes take place in a courtroom under the supervision of a judge, attorney, or commissioner. Some conferences can be less formal, including only the attorneys of each spouse and the spouses themselves. These conferences, called four-way meetings, are usually held at one of the lawyers’ offices.
In the conference, the spouses’ attorneys will help negotiate division of assets and debts, child custody, child support, alimony, and any other unresolved issues.
The Benefits of a Settlement Conference
There can be many benefits to a divorce settlement conference, especially if you have complicated issues to discuss, like child custody and complex property division.
- A settlement conference can help you resolve matters more quickly without having to go to trial.
- Structured negotiation can lessen the stress of the divorce process and reduce the emotional strain of both parties and their children.
- A settlement conference can also save you the costs you would incur by going to court to resolve matters.
Most divorces are settled outside of court for the above reasons. Going to trial is a decision that you should discuss in detail with your attorney to determine if no other alternatives exist to protect your vital interests.
How to Prepare
Before the settlement conference, it’s best to have a few things prepared to ensure the meeting has the greatest chance of success. First, meet with your attorney and discuss your case, what you can expect, and what he or she suggests you bring to the conference. Because they are working on your case, they will be your best source of information and will guide you in how to behave, and what you can expect to discuss.
When you began the divorce process, you should already have gathered any relevant documents and organized them accordingly. Before the conference, however, you should make certain you have everything you need. If you are dealing with a custody battle, bring your proposed parenting plan. Also take your financial documents, income verification, and other worksheets.
Remember the importance of the conference, and dress accordingly. Dress neatly and respectfully, and avoid items like sunglasses, expensive jewelry and watches.
Lastly, know your divorce case thoroughly. Brush up on the facts of your divorce and marriage, such as your financial standing, the property values of your marital assets, what types of custody you’ll be requesting, and so on.
What to Expect
During divorce settlement conferences, the lawyers of each party will do the talking. Should a client wish to speak, he or she should quietly communicate with their lawyer, who will then choose what information to relay. Conferences generally take a while – anywhere from a few hours to an entire day, and won’t always be pleasant. It’s nearly impossible for one client to receive absolutely everything he or she wants. Give and take can be healthy, so be prepared to let a few requests go in order to achieve your most important goals. As difficult as a divorce conference may be at times, try to remain calm and control your emotions as best you can.
Before the divorce settlement is finalized, talk to your attorney about any areas you aren’t clear about. You do not want to find yourself trapped in a settlement with terms you don’t fully understand, so make sure you have a firm grasp of what you’re agreeing to before it’s too late.
Once everything is finalized, get your settlement finalized in writing. It is human nature to change our minds, and your spouse may try to rearrange the agreement even after the conference. To avoid this, get the settlement in writing as soon as possible.If you are interested in a voluntary divorce settlement conference, or have questions about your mandatory conference, contact McKinley Irvin in Oregon.