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Self Service Settlement - I need a lot of feedback here folks!

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  • Self Service Settlement - I need a lot of feedback here folks!

    Ok, quick background.....

    My wife and I separated in January. We have since blown, and I mean BLOWN, a lot of money on Lawyers for nothing.....roughly 15k combined.

    We have always had a mutual respect and gotten along when it comes to our 3 year old son. However, when it comes to the financial stuff and has been a shit show to say the least.

    My wife and I finally sat down together yesterday and worked out a creative deal between us. My lawyer says I would surely fair better if it went to court and I am sure my wife's lawyer will be telling her the same.

    Nevertheless, my wife and I don't trust each other after all this and we don't know where to go from here.

    The issues are always centered around my income as a self employed person and my wife's income because she works 4 days a week instead of 5, but is going back to work 5 days a week in 9 months when our son goes to school.

    My concern is this, who does the offer and what are the implications of the offer being used as a basis for further negotiation. For example, the compromise is that I am agreeing to a method of calculating my income for CS that my lawyer and I disagree with, but not agreeing to the same method for SS.

    So, essentially if I follow my lawyer's advice, she gets a much lower total amount than the deal we came to yesterday, but I feel as though her and her lawyer will come back trying to use the income calculation I agreed to for CS as a basis for computing SS to more than the total amount we agreed to. I.e. once the lawyers get involved again, back to shit show-ville!

    One thing my wife mentioned yesterday was the idea of using one of those online services like candivorce to avoid this but because we don't trust each other, we're worried that we will be unprotected.

    Thoughts, comments, questions?


  • #2
    Are you already involved in court?

    If you guys have worked out something that you both agree to, simply write up a Separation Agreement with your terms and then take it to your lawyers to review... of course they will try to create conflict, but that is where it is your (and your ex's) job to control your lawyer. Simply tell them this is what you have agreed to and you are requesting they make sure all the legalities are in place... or if you don't want the lawyers to type it up, purchase one of the DIY Separation kits and punch in what you need, that way all your legal terms are in place.

    As much as you don't trust each other, it seems to me that neither of you trust your lawyers the question is... who do you trust more? Your ex who you have come to an agreement with, or a lawyer you is blowing through your money?

    Another suggestion may be arbitration... if you have your terms, arbitration gives you a chance to talk about the terms, but they also become binding.


    • #3
      15 k is chump change for two people to spend in that period of time on their lawyers. Consider that to be just a taste of what you will be paying if you can't compromise and come to a deal. So if you want to be stubborn you will pay one way or another.

      It sounds like the two of you have an agreement in principal. If need be hire a junior lawyer at a neutral law firm to draw up the agreement with specific written instructions indicating that you are only using their services for that purpose (limited retainer agreement). You should be able to negotiate a set fee - 500.00. Then you can take the draft to your respective lawyers and get your ILA. Those letters of ILA would be attachments to your agreement which would then be filed in court.


      • #4
        Hmmm, the concept of calculating your income differently depending upon whether its CS or SS just doesn't "feel" right to me. My gut tells me you'll end up paying the higher method for both !

        Keep in mind that there is very little room for creativity when it comes to CS. She can basically agree to a coffee once per month for CS and sign it in blood but one day or one decade later if she changes her mind and goes to court it's almost a given it will revert to the "standard" protocol. The concept is that CS is "the right of the child" and she doesn't have the right to modify it (of course if no one complains its usually OK).

        SS, on the other hand, has a lot of room for negotiation and you can vary quite a bit from the "suggested" and it should be much more defendable if she tries to come after you later for more money. Also keep in mind while CS is NOT tax deductible to you (tax free for her) SS is deductible to the payor (and taxable to recipient).

        While incomes are used to get an "idea" for SS, at the end of the day you guys can pretty much do what you want with it as long as its somewhat reasonable; you've been honest in declaring your financial info, and as pointed out earlier, make sure you EACH get ILA from different lawyers.

        As noted earlier, $15 K is NOTHING in legal fees. I had an afternoon meeting with my lawyer that exceeded $2K alone ! You're right, each lawyer will do their best to stir up trouble so they benefit and you go bankrupt. By all means use your lawyer to bounce things off and to double check stuff but don't let them con you into going to court unless you absolutely have to. The fees themselves will kill you !

        Good luck


        • #5
          What exactly is it that you are afraid of (that the other will do)? I suggest you both put some thought into rationalizing that fear. A lawyer is (almost criminally) well suited to help you with this!

          I'd suggest that you stick as close as possible to guidelines for CS. Because anything else is opening the door for one of you to go back to court later. What can go wrong? - one of you lies about your income (so exchange notices of assessment each year). One of you is self employed - so can manipulate their income (that's harder). One of you decides to work part time ... or go back to school .. or change careers (that can't be dealt with in your SA, so don't worry about it now).

          For SS, you can agree on anything. Do you want to make automatic changes each year depending on changes in income and new partners? Set a time limit? Or just do a one-time buyout.

          Have you agreed on how your assets are to be split? That's a one-time thing - no need for vague future-fears on this one.

          If you fear that your ex will see some loophole and re-open the agreement later, then reduce that risk by getting her to have a lawyer review it, and sign it - indicating that she has received independent legal advice. ... and she'll likely want you to do the same.
          Last edited by dinkyface; 12-17-2012, 11:05 PM.


          • #6
            shellshocked is dead on.

            lawyers benefit from dragging your dispute on as long as possible. retainer fees, appearance fees, settlement fees(probably set up to fail) and several other fees.

            hell wait til you go to trial. thats gonna be hitting another 15k just for a few days.

            That is one of the reasons why im self representing. It is NOT THAT HARD.

            the respondent which is the mother of my child already dropped 15k on her lawyer and we didnt even really go to court yet.


            • #7
              I often mention, but it is a valuable tool for knowing how the guidelines play out. As others mention, if you are close to the guideline amounts, theyn you are likely to have them upheld should it go to court, if you are way off, you are open to making an expensive trip should someone change their mind.

              My SS is close to the lower end of the range, so I didn't fight, and my CS is on scale.

              So we only spent legal fees on other issues (access wording)


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