Settlements and Negotiated Divorce Agreements

When facing divorce, the last thing you want is a drawn-out conflict in court. A negotiated divorce agreement can solve this.  It is especially true for prominent CEOs and industry leaders who may be public figures in their fields. The longer and more acrimonious your divorce case, the more painful it can be for you and your family. If you have children, you may want to avoid putting them through the ordeal of a trial.

A divorce settlement or negotiated divorce agreement allows you to come to a resolution with your spouse outside of the courtroom. Both sides hire their own lawyers who negotiate an agreement between the two parties. Compared to litigation, a negotiated divorce settlement can save you from significant expense and reduce how much you have to communicate with your spouse.

Settlements offer a less adversarial and often quicker approach to divorce. As a result, negotiated settlements are the most common type of divorce. You and your spouse can agree to settle at any time in the divorce process – even if your divorce trial has already started. California courts accept settlement agreements up to and even at your final hearing or trial.

In order to foster honest communication and encourage negotiation, the settlement process can be made entirely confidential. Once you agree to the terms, the settlement between you and your spouse becomes a legally binding contract known as the Marital Settlement Agreement.

A strong advocate is critical to protecting your interests in a divorce settlement. At Moradi Saslaw, our attorneys are dedicated to preserving your wealth, custody, and visitation rights. Call our office at 415.872.1080 today to see if a settlement is right for you.

The Pros and Cons of Negotiated Divorce Agreements

Pros of a Divorce Settlement

  • Clients are each represented by their own lawyers.
  • You can usually reach a resolution faster than traditional litigation.
  • Lower cost of time and resources compared to litigation.
  • Less stressful and antagonistic than going to trial.
  • The process can be more discreet than litigation, where the courthouse records are public.

Cons of a Divorce Settlement

  • You likely will have to compromise on some terms to get an agreement.
  • If one party is unwilling to compromise, the other party will have to give in to their demands or else go to trial.

The Settlement and Negotiated Divorce Agreement Process

Step 1: Hiring a Divorce Attorney

As soon as you and your spouse decide to get a divorce, each of you hires your own divorce lawyer. When you work with Moradi Saslaw attorneys, we take the time to understand your goals and the outcomes you want to achieve. We assess the specific facts of your case, explain the legal process to you, and give you a recommendation on how to move forward.

Step 2: Filing and Serving the Divorce Petition

Your official divorce proceedings start when one party files their divorce petition with a court and serves a copy of the petition to the other party.

Step 3: Interim Agreements

Both sides’ attorneys work together to create interim agreements for custody, visitation, spousal alimony, child support, expense payments, and any other specifics that need to be addressed. Interim measures are short-term accommodations put in place by the court to maintain the status quo before reaching a more permanent resolution.

Step 4: Information Gathering

The information-gathering process begins. In California, both parties must exchange a preliminary declaration of disclosure (PDD). In this document, each spouse provides the other with information about their income, assets, debts, and other essential details concerning their wealth. At Moradi Saslaw, our lawyers will help you draft your declaration with a strategic approach. In addition, our firm will run a thorough forensic investigation if you believe your spouse is attempting to hide assets from you.

Step 5: Creating a Settlement Offer

Our attorneys analyze each party’s assets, debts, income, and expenses. For more complicated community and separate property estates, we may bring in additional support like wealth management specialists, forensic accountants, and asset and business valuation experts. Using this information and keeping your goals in mind, we create a settlement offer.

Step 6: Review and Respond

We review and respond to settlement offers and negotiate with opposing counsel to reach an agreement. The divorce process may shift to litigation if an agreement isn’t possible through negotiation. However, most of the time, clients reach a negotiated settlement.

Negotiated Divorce Agreement Example

Below is a generalized example of the divorce settlement agreement process:

John Doe is a real estate developer and owner of his own business. Jane Doe is a non-profit lawyer. The Does have been married twelve years and have two young children. John approaches our firm for divorce representation. His goals are to keep equal custody of their children and full ownership of the business he built.

After a divorce petition is filed, our attorneys establish interim solutions that work in John’s best interests, including a temporary custody arrangement splitting the children’s time equally between their parents. Our law firm begins the information gathering process and helps John fill out his declaration of disclosure.

As John’s lawyers, one of our biggest concerns is determining whether each of John and Jane’s businesses are community property or separate property under California law.

If John started his business during the marriage, it will likely qualify as community property. Typically, he’d value his business so that he can buy out Jane’s interest.

If John started his business before the marriage, it will qualify as his own separate property. We must value the amount of community effort invested in the growth of the business compared to how much the business compensated John while he was married. 

John and Jane may hire a neutral valuation expert together or hire their own experts separately. Once we tally all of the relevant valuations and financial information, we create a settlement offer that:

  • Preserves equal custody of the Doe children, and
  • Buys out the value of Jane’s interest in John’s company in exchange for full ownership.

We send the offer to Jane, who decides whether to accept or negotiate further. The negotiations continue until both parties are satisfied and sign the settlement agreement.

Frequently Asked Questions about Divorce Settlements and Negotiated Divorce Agreements

How Long Will It Take to Finalize My Divorce?

Under California law, your marital status cannot change until at least six months and one day after the date your divorce petition is served.  .

However, that does not mean you have to wait to resolve the issues in your divorce.  The length of time it takes to negotiate a settlement varies from client to client. Some clients resolve their cases within a few months. Other cases could take much longer to resolve. The biggest factors in length of time to divorce is the parties’ willingness to settle, the complexity of assets that need to be valued, and whether separate property tracings need to be analyzed.

How Will We Come up With a Custody Agreement?

Custody will vary based on your situation. Couples often reach a temporary agreement to establish a visitation schedule for their children while their divorce is being finalized. This interim custody schedule may not reflect what your final custody agreement looks like. Even final custody and visitation agreements may not be permanent – they can change if you, your spouse’s, or your children’s needs change over time.

We are dedicated to helping our clients find the best situation for their family. Our firm is here to help when situations change and new agreements must be reached. We often work with co-parent counselors and psychologists in helping our clients reach custody agreements that are in the best interests of their children and the family as a whole.

What Are the Most Important Elements In the Divorce Process?

Moradi Saslaw lawyers have decades of combined family law experience. In every divorce, no matter the type, we identify the five main elements:

  1. Assets and debts – What is community property versus separate property? Does either spouse have reimbursement rights?
  2. Child custody – What will the parenting schedule look like? Should both parents be responsible for important decisions about the children or just one? If both parents are to make decisions, what is the best way for those decisions to be reached, given all the personalities involved?
  3. Spousal support – Should either spouse pay support to the other? How much should they provide and how long should it last?
  4. Child support – Should either spouse pay child support to the other? How much should they provide and for how long?
  5. Attorney’s fees – Will either party contribute to the other’s attorney’s fees?

We build your divorce strategy and negotiate the terms of your settlement based on your goals and needs for each of the categories above. Every divorce is different and we provide each client with the personalized advice and support they need to build their best future post-divorce.

Is a Negotiated Divorce Agreement and Settlement Right for You?

The more assets you have, the more complicated your divorce settlement can get. You need a law firm with a proven track record at the negotiation table who can explain the different types of divorce proceedings available to you.

High-net-worth divorces have different needs than typical divorce cases. High earners and top performers like tech CEOs, venture capitalists, doctors, lawyers, startup entrepreneurs, and real estate developers have unique considerations they must take into account. You and your spouse may have additional expenses like private school or college tuition, hobbies or lessons for your children, or full-time childcare employment. You or your spouse’s assets or business interests may be tied up in complex financial entities.

The attorneys at Moradi Saslaw have the expertise to address your particular concerns and negotiate your case to a successful resolution. Our law firm has the capacity and experience to carry out a full forensic investigation for accurate accounting. Our job is to get you the best negotiating position possible. Call our San Francisco and Bay Area law firm today at 415.872.1080 to discuss your divorce settlement options.