Divorce Settlement: When Is It a Good Idea?

Settlement in a divorce might sound like someone is not getting everything he/she deserves because someone is “settling”. Quite the contrary, a settlement in a divorce is more likely to be in line with the wishes of the husband and wife than an order created by a judge or child support magistrate.

The parties in a settlement have control over the details of the agreement and do not have to rely on a court which must follow sometimes inflexible laws when creating a judgment and decree. Parties are free to use creative solutions to meet the individual needs of each family. In reaching a settlement agreement, each party should consider what his/her priorities are. For example, one spouse may be more concerned about having cash to buy a house, while the other spouse may have a large retirement portfolio but limited income with which to offer a cash settlement. It is possible to take money out of a retirement portfolio without penalty during a division of assets as part of a divorce and doing so may be the best solution to provide cash to a spouse who needs it without depleting income to the other spouse. Another example would be the situation where the priority for one spouse is parenting time, while for the other parent it is the legal title of “sole custody”. In that case, both parties can fulfill their priorities because the party wishing to have the legal title “sole custody” can have it while the other party can still have 50% parenting time. “Sole physical custody” in Minnesota does not carry the rights and responsibilities it once did and may be merely a matter of semantics with no real everyday effect.

If the parties can realize that their priorities are different they may each get exactly what they want in a settlement. It is easy in the emotional atmosphere of a divorce process to get caught up in winning every little battle—but the focus really should be on each party feeling that he/she is being heard, respected and ultimately coming up with a plan that works for everyone in the family. It is truly rare for any couple to come through a divorce and feel that it went “well”, but the goal should always be to get through it with as little acrimony as possible and to sustain a level of decency and respect throughout which is more likely in a settlement than in litigation.

While settling without legal consultation is ideal for any couple wishing to save on legal fees, an experienced family law attorney who actually believes in helping people reach a settlement can save a divorcing couple a great deal of emotional energy and time, and can be invaluable in creating a settlement that works within the law and benefits everyone involved.