How do you negotiate if you don’t know what is fair?
First and foremost, if you and your spouse can agree on how to settle your divorce, then it is fair. It might not be exactly what either of you want in every aspect and it might not feel fair, but, with certain exceptions relating to your minor children, a court will accept your agreement and not question it on the basis of fairness or equity.
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 feel to be fair or acceptable with “what a court would decide.” Although lawyers 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.
You can try to compare your situation to other people’s divorces, but this can be difficult 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 about why a judge decided an issue a certain way. Generally, a judge tells the parties what he or she has decided and then the lawyers draft an order that follows that decision. That order does not provide any of the “why” for the judge’s decision.
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.
Because each divorce has its own particular issues, pressure points and constraints, the best way to navigate through the process toward a fair resolution is with the guidance of a lawyer who can provide legal advice specifically about the interplay of Georgia divorce law and your personal situation. 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.