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How to Get a Great Divorce Settlement

Let's start with the good news: over 90% of divorce cases settle without a trial. That means that you have a huge role to play in deciding what you're going to walk away with after your marriage ends.

In most cases settling really is the best option. If you have a choice, would you rather someone else decide your future, or do you want to control it yourself? If you can get a good outcome on your own, you should absolutely do it. But you should only settle your case if you and your lawyer believe it's as good a deal as you’d likely get in court. Please don’t settle for a bad deal because you feel pressured, afraid, or worried that you'll disappoint other people if you don't. I’ve talked to many women years later who felt they’d settled for far too little. I know court feels scary but accepting far less than you’re entitled to should feel scarier!


"I should have asked the judge to let me keep our house. My husband was causing all kinds of problems, but I was really nervous about going to court. Because he refused to leave, I ended up being the one to move out! If I could do it over, I would have put my fears aside and gone for it, instead of putting myself and my kids through hell (which included living in a mold-infested apartment) while he stayed in our beautiful home!"

- Nicole, Atlanta


So how do you get the kind of settlement that you deserve?

While there are many tricks to negotiation, here are the top three things you absolutely must do to get a great outcome in your divorce:

1. Know the law that applies to you.

Unless you’re a trained family lawyer, or have hours to devote to studying, this means getting good legal advice. In most states, the outcome in a divorce is based on “equity” (meaning what's fair.) States have rules or at least guidelines for things like how to divide your assets (is it always 50/50 or can you get more?), how much alimony and child support you will get (is there a formula and can you vary off it?), and whether your spouse can be required to pay for sports and private school and a whole lot more. (For some great tips on negotiating child support, check out our Kitchen-Sink List of What We Pay for Kids. If you don't know the law, you don’t know what you can and can’t get.

2. Set your expectations high.

That's right, not on what's fair, or even what your lawyer says is your likely outcome, but HIGH. Why should you do this? Because like it or not, negotiation is a game. You have to give yourself room to adjust because it’s highly unlikely you’re going to get everything you ask for. Also, having high expectations will convey a level of confidence that will be felt by everyone involved – your spouse, his lawyer, even your lawyer. If you have high expectations, your lawyer will know he’s going to have to try that much harder to meet them! Notice I said high, not unreasonable. You’re not going to get the same deal your best friend got if she was married to a multimillionaire and you aren't. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment. But once you’re clear on what you can get - and not what someone else in a different situation might get - then set your expectations high. Decide what you want and get clear on your goals. As my mom always said, if you don't ask you won't get!

3. Be patient.

Divorce is a tiring process mentally and physically. A great divorce settlement takes time. Time for you and your lawyer to get the full picture of your situation. Time to gather the proof you need of your spouse's bad conduct. And time to "undo" what you likely put a lot of time and effort into "doing" in the first place. If you rush the process, you might overlook some critical information. Another reason to be patient: the person in a rush almost always pays more, or accepts less, to get to a quick finish. This is especially true if there is something or someone waiting on the other side - a hot new lover, a job promotion, or something even bigger. Those who rush pay for it in one way or the other. Being patient sends the signal that you’re willing to wait to make sure you get the outcome you deserve and won't be pressured or bullied or make hasty decisions.

So, repeat after me:

Know the law. Set your expectations high. Be patient.

And again:

Know the law. Set your expectations high. Be patient.

I promise you these 3 things will get you to a better place.

You’ve got this, gorgeous.


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