All I want is custody of my children. I will pay him/her everything for full primary custody of my children. I just want out of the house. I want to sell the house. Let my ex take on the responsibility of the house, I just don’t want to be liable for it anymore. I want to be happy again. I want this to be over. I want him/her out of the house as of yesterday. I don’t care what you do as long as I get Fido (Fluffy, Sir Snugglebuttons, Fluffernoogans… etc.)
These phrases are all too often uttered by our clients right before we begin the settlement process. They tell us their bottom-line. Sometimes these things are spoken to us the first time they walk in to our office. The problem is, we know it’s not true. People may just want custody of their children, or just want out of the house, but the true bottom-line is not always so easy. If you give your lawyer this one statement, and they think that’s truly what you want, and they get it for you, it will surely come as a shock to them when you decide you don’t want the deal they’ve negotiated for you once you’ve thought everything out and you really want more. Here are some tips on keeping your settlement negotiations on track, keeping you happy, and keeping your lawyer happy:
- Figure out what you can afford. Can you afford to get full primary custody without any child support? What about the help that money would provide when your children want to enroll in all those fancy extracurricular activities. Sure, little Timmy is barely scooting across the living room, but what happens when he wants to play little league, begin golf lessons, or decides he wants to be the next big hip hop phenomenon? Don’t forego child support only to realize that you may need it on the 11th hour of negotiations, especially when we’ve advised you to put something in place before this time. Once you win the war, it may be tempting to go back and fight all those little battles you decided you didn’t want to fight to begin with, but it might just blow up.
- Don’t get greedy. As I just said, it’s really tempting to now go back and try to pick apart your previous negotiations when you’ve got what you want, but if you come to us saying all you want are your children, and we get you that after months of negotiating… it not only makes us look like we can’t be trusted when we deny that offer, but it makes you look like you’re seeking revenge too. Speaking of revenge…
- Don’t be vengeful. The settlement process is hard. It can often take months or years to get a case to settle. If, after all this time, you are offered exactly what you wanted the first go round, think hard and long about taking it. It’s not smart to keep fighting just to fight. There comes a time when your lawyer will advise you to cut your losses and take the deal. Think about it, we fight and negotiate for a living. We’re probably sick of that jerk too, but we also have to look out for you when it’s in your best interest to take the deal.