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How to Get Past A Rut in Marital Settlement Agreements

Posted By Attorney Jim Cairns || 9-Jan-2013

You have started negotiating a marital settlement agreement with your spouse, but you find yourself not moving forward with a final agreement. If you have had only one meeting keep in mind that most settlement agreements take several meetings. Also, be clear on your goals of what you really want and what you are willing to compromise on.

If you haven't done the following already, make sure to do this as soon as possible:

  1. Create a 3-ring uncontested divorce notebook. Some items to include in your notebook are financial records, deeds, insurance records, all your marital assets and debts, items you need in the marital settlement agreement, and items for which you have flexibility in negotiating. Keep a record of your meetings (date, time, and place) and what you accomplished and a list of what are challenges in negotiations. This is your notebook, so keep it a safe place and don't share the contents unless absolutely necessary.
  2. Assess your financial needs. This generally starts with making a budget for your post divorce life.
  3. Write out your children's needs. This doesn't just mean for the next year, but until your child becomes an independent adult. How will your children's needs change as she or he becomes older? Will your child have money set aside for college on a regular basis from both parents? Will there be an account to take care of your child's needs while in college?

Location, location, location. Where are you having your marital settlement negotiation meetings? Is it a neutral place? Is it quiet, or do you have kids interrupting and distracting you? Find a place where you both have some privacy and feel safe. Stay away from places which may trigger an emotional response.

Be honest with yourself (remember, there nobody there to judge you). Were you as calm and cool as you hoped you would be? If not, don't linger on your failures (after all, you are human), move on and get grounded. Apologize and say "I'm sorry..." if it's in order. Remember you are keeping your eyes on a goal, which is your financial stability in the long term.

Ask yourself the following questions to help move you along in the right direction when negotiating your marital settlement agreement.

  1. Am I being business-like or am I bringing up emotional issues?
  2. If I were my spouse would I think my requests are fair?
  3. Would outsiders believe my requests are fair?
  4. Am I giving my spouse the opportunity to speak or am I talking over him/her?
  5. Am I practicing active listening?
  6. Am I being reasonable in my negotiations? Take into account the reality of both of your financial situations and potential financial situations.
  7. How is my timing? Am I forcing issues on my spouse too quickly and is he or she is having difficulty handling each one? Do I need to give my spouse more time in between issues or meetings?

Self-care is really important during your negotiations. It's easy to let yourself go while trying to take care of everything else. Try to get enough sleep, eat properly, stay hydrated (take a water bottle to your meeting) and get some stress relief (exercise is highly recommended, even just a walk before the meeting).

If you find yourself frustrated or your negotiations are stuck in a rut, you may want to include a third party in on your negotiations. Some ideas for a neutral third party include: a therapist, divorce coach, or a religious leader.

An online search or a stop at your local library may be a good idea to help with your uncontested Pennsylvania divorce. One topic you may want to do a search on is how to handle conflict. Remember, the more tools you have at your disposal, the more likely you are to have a successful marital settlement agreement and an affordable uncontested divorce. Don't forget to ask your uncontested divorce attorney for a free guide or some helpful tips on negotiating your marital settlement agreement.