Should I Settle My Case Before Hiring an Attorney?

The short answer is NO! This is the biggest mistake people make. This is like saying should I take the test before I study? People often try to reach agreements themselves because they believe it will save them money. However, the problem is they don’t even know what they need to reach agreements about, and they may reach agreements that are unworkable in the long run because they lack the experience to realize the pitfalls of their agreement. Trying to settle the case before you obtain the proper knowledge is trying to run the race backward.

The better way to save money is to hire an experienced divorce attorney that settles a high percentage of their cases and will coach you through the process. An experienced divorce attorney can help you evaluate your case, work through the different options available and how those options will likely play out over time, and help you devise a good plan for negotiations. This prevents you from reaching an agreement just to find out that the agreement is specifically not permitted under the law or that the agreement is unlikely to produce the desired result. An experienced divorce attorney has seen hundreds of settlements and knows what pitfalls to avoid. Negotiating without this knowledge is dangerous and costly. Getting it right the first time is always cheaper than trying to fix it later.

If you are able to productively communicate with your soon-to-be-ex and are good at negotiations, then you may be able to settle your case with your soon-to-be-ex. However, you should absolutely hire the experienced divorce attorney first and acquire the required knowledge before you begin having those discussions with your soon-to-be-ex.

Conversations are productive as long as they are about possible solutions. The minute conversations become vindictive, emotional, or revolve around blame, they are not productive and the conversation should cease immediately. Continuing a nonproductive conversation may result in increasing the cost of your case because an emotional spouse is not in a settlement frame of mind. It may take a while to get the spouse back to a point where productive conversation can even begin again.

Do not expect to learn all you need to know during a consultation with an attorney. Consultations are designed to give you an opportunity to learn about the attorney, the basic process and decide if the attorney is a good fit for you and your case. The purpose of a consultation is to find the right attorney to hire.

Once you have hired an attorney, if you want to try to negotiate your own settlement you should schedule a more in-depth meeting to go over the specifics of your situation so the attorney can advise you about the available options and the likely outcome on each issue if the court were to determine it for you. You should expect to go over the very specific financial aspects of your case and the day-to-day parenting tasks of your children. Sometimes you will find that you need more information before you can develop an informed and strategic settlement plan. These strategy sessions will educate you on the options available and how best to achieve your goals of settlement.

Only after you have developed this plan should you attempt to settle your case with your soon-to-be-ex. A winning strategy for saving money is:

    1. Hire the right attorney.

    2. Acquire the necessary knowledge.

    3. Devise a settlement plan with your attorney.

    4. Only have productive conversations with your soon-to-be-ex.

    5. Stop the conversations if they become unproductive.

    6. Never agree to something you have not run by your attorney first.

    7. Have the attorney draft all title change documents and the decree of divorce.

Since your objective is to save money, if the conversations are not getting you to settlement, know when to stop and let the attorney try to settle the case. Your attorney should not be emotional about your case and is often in a better position to keep the conversations at a point where settlement is possible. After all, an experienced divorce attorney has settled thousands of cases.

Robin R. Zegen has been settling cases for over 30 years and knows the art of reaching agreements and coaching clients to reach their own agreements. Call Robin R. Zegen today to schedule a consultation.”