How Can My Spouse & I Keep Our Divorce as Amicable as Possible?

First of all, it is admirable that the two of you wish to cooperate in reaching a resolution to your case. Studies routinely show that parties who reach a settlement of their case are more satisfied with the outcome than those who try their case to a final hearing.  If the two of you are able to settle it will expedite the process and also save you money on attorney fees.

By far the easiest way to handle this situation is for you and your spouse to sit down and work through how you will handle the various issues in a divorce before you hire an attorney to actually represent you.  It is probably advisable to schedule a consultation with a family law attorney to educate you on the nuts and bolts of a divorce case.  (A word to the wise, most skilled family law attorneys will charge for an initial consultation.  Some do not, but you often get what you pay for.)  If you and your spouse work out at least a rough agreement on all issues before hiring an attorney, you may be able to do an uncontested divorce and avoid having to each hire a lawyer.  Many attorneys will handle a simple uncontested divorce for one flat fee.

If you and your spouse cannot agree on all issues, you each will have no choice but to "lawyer up."  This does not necessarily mean that spending exorbitant amounts on legal fees is inevitable.  If, in spite of you inability to reach an agreement on your own, you still think or at least hope the divorce can be amicable, you should take that into consideration when hiring your lawyer.  It will be imperative that you hire a lawyer who understands your goal to reach a settlement and your spouse should be encouraged to do the same.  I was recently involved in a case where the parties wanted to reach an agreement, but the opposing attorney berated his own client to the point of tears because the attorney did not want his client to settle the case on what were actually very equitable terms.

Each of you should cooperate in the prompt and efficient exchange of information necessary to make an informed decision and discuss with your attorney options such as settlement conferences or mediation.  Even if you are not able to reach a settlement on all issues, do not let yourself fall into the mindset that you must have a "global" settlement or no settlement.  I have found in mediating cases for other attorneys that once the parties start agreeing on issues, it can "snowball" and they will begin to settle other issues.  Even if you do not settle every issue, memorializing the ones you do resolve will allow you and your attorney to focus on only the ones in dispute.

As with most anything else in your divorce case, it is important for you to find a lawyer who not only understands your goals but will set aside his/her ego and strive towards those goals.

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