Kitchen Table Etiquette.
When words can hurt you!
Sally beamed as she proudly informed me that she and her former spouse had sat down at their kitchen table and negotiated their own separation agreement.
Now as any of my former or current clients, or anyone who reads this blog, knows all too well, I encourage as much discussion between separating spouses as possible, rather than restricting the negotiations to counsel.
However, there are crucial pre-conditions – the first of which is likely the most important, and unfortunately the one ignored by Sally, and no doubt many others.
Firstly, before talking about such details as how the family assets and liabilities are to be divided, or how much support is to be paid, and for how long, be sure to find out your legal rights and obligations.
If you don’t, just like Sally who reached a verbal agreement on monthly spousal support with her ex BEFORE knowing her legal rights, (which was substantially lower than what Sally was actually entitled to receive) you now have one of two options. You can decide not to rock the boat and simply accept the reduced support, or you can announce to your upset ex that your support must be increased.
Both of these uncomfortable options can easily avoided if you simply take some time to first consult with an experienced family lawyer before sitting down at the kitchen table with your ex to discuss terms of settlement.
Secondly, if you don’t feel comfortable sitting down with your ex to talk about what happens next, don’t. There is another option which I encourage in such circumstances. It’s a meeting with your ex, supported by your counsel.
If your ex also has counsel at he meeting (not a bad idea because your own lawyer is professionally bound not to give legal advice to anyone other than you), it’s called a four-way meeting. In my experience such four-way meetings can be productive, and lead to the preparation and signing of a separation agreement, thereby avoiding both costly legal proceedings, and unfair terms.
You can also choose to talk or not, at the meeting, and in some situations my client waits in another room while I shuttle between the ex and his or her counsel and my client.
Those are my kitchen table words of wisdom for this week, for more, keep reading this blog, and join my kitchen table divorce support group on Meet Up.