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Negotiations

Do you need a Pittsburgh divorce attorney to negotiate for you?

The vast majority of family law cases (divorce, custody, PFA's etc.) are settled through negotiations. Support cases are often settled at the support conference. In fact, negotiated settlement is generally preferable to litigation for a host of reasons, including uncertainty, costs and conflict. So settling upon good terms is the ultimate goal of most family law issues. Proper settlement of your case should always involve the following four stages:

  1. Information gathering;
  2. Strategizing;
  3. Negotiating; and
  4. Settlement

Information Gathering

The first step in negotiating a settlement is understanding the facts, personalities and goals of the case. A good family law attorney is like a good chauffeur with an out-of-town visitor. The chauffeur helps the client choose the best destination and then gets the client to the destination safely and efficiently. To help you choose the best destination, your attorney needs to know your financial situation, goals and concerns. This is done through the initial interview and an ongoing process of questions and answers.

To help you choose the best route, your attorney needs to understand the system, the judge and opposing counsel. This is based on the experience and perceptiveness of the attorney. And your attorney will need to collect and analyze documentation to get you there. This is often done through getting documentation (and answers) from both the client and the other side. Sometimes formal "discovery" is required to get the documentation and sometimes information exchanges will suffice.

Strategizing

After the facts and issues are understood, the next step is determining a fair settlement. The family law system is not designed to engage in an existential examination of the justice, of the parties. So fairness is not based on the abstract justice of a case. Instead, a good attorney will base a fair decision on the best estimate of the results of going to trial. If the settlement is equal or better than the expected outcome, it is fair. Settlement proposals that are significantly worse are unfair.

The client cannot know the advisability of a settlement without this information. And this information can best be gleaned by an experienced, focused, and engaged attorney. Once a fair range of settlement is obtained, the attorney and client must decide on the best route of getting to that settlement, taking into account the facts and personalities of the case, leverage and desired goal.

Negotiation

Going from the range of a fair settlement to the actual settlement is the process of negotiation. A good negotiator should have experience in getting from point A to point B and the creativity and flexibility to see multiple paths to the goal. Good negotiators also have reputations for honesty, reasonableness, and reliability. Finally, good negotiators have good communication with their clients so that there are no surprises.

Settlement

Once a settlement is reached, it remains to be implemented and finalized. It is important to have an attorney who has drafted and analyzed many settlement agreements, custody orders, support agreements, PFA orders, and the like. As they say, the devil is in the details. Foresight, experience, and care at the time of signing can save a world of trouble years later.