There are several options whereby parties may attempt to settle the outstanding issues arising from a separation. The following options are listed here from fast and inexpensive to long and more costly affairs.
Option one is for the parties to sit down together and attempt to come to an agreement on as many issues as possible. This obviously requires the parties to be on speaking terms and under no threat or duress. Before engaging in such discussions, it is important that each party consult with a lawyer as to their rights and obligations arising from the breakdown of the relationship. If the parties are able to come to an agreement on all issues, one of the parties should engage a lawyer to prepare a Separation Agreement incorporating the terms of the understanding, for signature by both parties. It is advisable that both parties have their own lawyer to review the Agreement with them.
May couples who are separating are not on speaking terms and any attempt to discuss settlement terms simply inflame the situation. In that event, it is advisable that each party retain their own lawyer and that the discussions and negotiations be between lawyers. If an agreement is reached, one of the lawyers will take on the task of preparing the draft Separation Agreement for execution. This is the second option.
If the parties are unable to come to an agreement on some of the issues, it is best to proceed to Mediation/Arbitration. That process I have discussed in an earlier blog.
The last and most expensive option is to resort to Family Court. In many cases, this is the only option as the opposing party refuses to cooperate or disclose financial details. I sometimes recommend this as the first option if my client believes the opposing party will not cooperate. Court can be a powerful tool in resolving outstanding issues due to the imposition of deadlines. A court proceeding can shift the balance of power from one party to the other. The majority of cases in family court settle prior to trial.