3 Tips for Achieving a Fair Divorce Settlement Agreement

By Sharon Pastore, Main Line Family Law Center

Oftentimes couples are advised to work towards achieving a fair settlement agreement. While dividing assets can look fair mathematically and on paper, it may not feel fair for the individual. What does “fair” mean in the eyes of the law? What are the biggest barriers to achieving a fair divorce settlement agreement, and how do you achieve a fair divorce settlement agreement in months instead of years?

What’s Fair in a Divorce Settlement?

DIVORCE AGREEMENT TIP #1:  What's Fair to You May Not Equal What the Court Says Is Fair

At a young age, you begin to develop a concept of what fair means to you and carry that understanding with us for the rest of our life. However, your definition of fair may not be the same as your spouse’s definition of fair. Whether it means being financially compensated, splitting everything up 50/50, or creating a good outcome for your children, everyone comes to the table with different notions of what fair means.

“From a legal standpoint, the court is bound with the statutes, and from that, they determine what they think is fair, according to Diana Schimmel, of The Law Office of Diana Schimmel. The court’s definition of fair is often different from what the people want to achieve.” For most couples, fair is what works best for them.

"The court’s definition of fair is often different from what the people want to achieve."

~Dianna Schimmel, The Law Office of Dianna Schimmel

Cris Pastore, co-founder and attorney-mediator at Main LIne Family Law Center brings couples together to try to find that middle ground. "Fair is what everyone needs moving forward, and how can we best provide for those needs that both spouses can live with.”

"Fair is what everyone needs moving forward, and how can we best provide for those needs that both spouses can live with.”

~ Cris Pastore, Main Line Family Law Center 

Challenges and Barriers to Achieving a Fair Settlement

DIVORCE AGREEMENT TIP #2: Keep Emotions in Check.  Resist the Reluctance to Disclose Financial Information (okay, that's 2 tips in one)

Sometimes spiteful, vindictive emotions may arise in the divorce process and can become major barriers in achieving a fair divorce settlement. At other times, emotional attachments and reluctances about sharing financial history may also hinder the process.

Schimmel suggests, “Sorting through emotions is the best way to deal with them and then channeling them through the process. Also, just as you expect a clear line of communication from the other party you want to provide that in your case as well.” Pastore also recommends coming in willing to compromise rather than focusing on winning. There is no such thing as an ideal settlement because people rarely get everything they ask for.

“When you focus on winning or losing and getting more than your spouse, you will end up being disappointed and set the wrong tone for your divorce.”

~ Cris Pastore, Main Line Family Law Center 

Getting to a Fair Settlement Faster

DIVORCE AGREEMENT TIP #3:   Consider Moving Forward through Divorce Mediation

Going through the courts to achieve a fair settlement agreement may be a two year or more process. However, divorce mediation can help you achieve a fair settlement in just a matter of months. A divorce mediator is a neutral third party who assists parties in finding that middle ground. In the initial consult, candidates are asked a series of questions based on debt, children, and other issues involved.

From there, if the candidates are coming in with the right frame of mind on doing what’s best for the family, they are deemed appropriate candidates for the process.  They undergo the process of financial disclosure, consult with a parenting mediator if necessary, and lay how what is most important to them. “There is always common ground in mediation,” says Pastore. “It is what the parties make of it. While they are not always going to agree, if they are willing and ready to compromise, they can achieve the fairest settlement possible.”

The information above is from Preparing for Divorce, a monthly podcast of Main Line Family Law Center, in partnership with Adina Laver of Divorce Essentials. 

About the Author

Sharon Pastore, Main Line Family Law Center

Picture of Sharon Pastore, Main Line Family Law Center Sharon Pastore is Co-Founder of Main Line Family Law Center, which was established in 2012. She is on a mission to generate awareness, understanding and trust around mediation as a healthier option for separation and divorce well before a client's first consultation. She draws upon over 17 years in nonprofit, education and marketing to enable more spouses to "get to the table" and mediate successfully.

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Topics: Healthy Legal Options