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Some people want to reach agreed upon terms of custody, visitation, child support, spousal support and property division. It is a good approach that can allow parties to reach terms that work for them specifically. It can be a way to seek to maintain a respectful relationship particularly when children are involved.  Here are some things you should keep in mind:

1.  Negotiating an agreement requires cooperation on both a sides; and there needs to be a level of understanding and knowledge from both parties on the terms involved.
2.  Negotiating can include multiple steps that in which each party may be asked to participate at various times. These steps include but may not be limited to the following
3.  Collecting/exchanging information such as tax returns, paystubs, retirement information, bank statements, investment statements, IRA statements, mortgage statements, credit card statements, etc. is an important stage to help the attorney understand the marital estate, income for support purposes, etc.
4.  In negotiations, formal discovery through subpoenas and court mechanisms is not available where litigation has not been started. The attorneys have to rely on the parties for this information. This stage can take time depending on how much information one spouse has and how much information has to be gathered from the other spouse. Depending on the responsiveness of the other spouse, this stage can take several weeks.
5.  In addition to documentary information, clients are asked to consider what they want so that the attorney can draft a proposal.
6. After a proposal is put together that a client feels comfortable making, it is sent to the other party or counsel if the party is represented. They have the opportunity to review the proposal and then they may decide to make a counterproposal.
7.  There is no required time frame by which a response must be provided in negotiations; and there is no penalty per se for the other spouse not responding.
8.  When a response is received, the client then has the opportunity to review it and determine if and how he or she will respond.
9.  How many counterproposals may be made and/or received cannot be predicted at the outset of a case. Each round of a proposal/counterproposal can take different amounts of time.
10.  If an agreement is reached and fully executed, then at the statutory permitted time, unless otherwise agreed to, one party can begin the process to finalize the divorce. A divorce is not final upon execution of an agreement.
Negotiations are a good approach to a separation/divorce. It is important during the process to remember, however, that the myths associated with negotiations, i.e it is a quick resolution and/or a cheap resolution, may not be true. Each case is different with respect to how long it will take to reach an agreement or whether an agreement will be reached at all and what the fees/costs may be. We work with our clients to try to achieve their objectives based on the information we are provided in a prompt and timely manner.

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