How do you negotiate if you don’t know what is fair? First and foremost, if you and your spouse can both accept a certain decision and feel that it is a fair resolution, then it is fair. But we understand that no one wants to feel like they “left something on the table” or made an agreement that makes them look or feel stupid or gullible. So any divorce negotiation takes place “in the shadow of the courthouse” which means that people compare what they might consider to be fair with “what a court would decide.” Although we have a general idea of what a court might decide, no lawyer, accountant or friend can tell you with certainty what would happen if your case went to court.
Even though there is not absolute certainty about how your divorce might be decided by a court, there are some very clear guidelines you can rely on when you are trying to reach resolution. The first and most important guideline is Georgia law. The same set of rules apply to all divorces. You can read more about the legal issues to be addressed in every divorce – division of assets and debts, alimony, child custody and child support.
You can also try to look at decisions that courts have made about other people’s divorces, but this can be a frustrating exercise for many reasons. The facts in your divorce will not be identical to the facts any other divorce so the outcome of someone else’s divorce can only hint at your possible outcome. Different judges might apply the law differently so, unless you end up in front of the same judge, the outcome of someone else’s divorce might not be a good guide for your divorce. Finally, there is no place to read a judge’s decision in a divorce case. The decisions are not reported. The judge rules and then the lawyers incorporate that ruling into the parties’ settlement agreement. The settlement agreement does not provide any of the “why” for the judge’s decision. Court rulings about other people’s divorces are, at best, anecdotal.
Ultimately, a fair resolution is one that is structured with an eye on the law, on the reality of your situation, on what is best for your family, and on what is going to work for your future.