I have seen in my 15 years of experience as a divorce attorney, Long Island divorce cases often involve what are known as 4-Way Settlement Conferences among divorcing couples and their attorneys.
If you are considering retaining a Long Island divorce lawyer, you may have heard the term “4-Way Settlement Conference.” You are likely wondering what exactly this is and what role it plays in your divorce. While the term sounds scary, it is an extremely useful tool your attorney has in his or her pocket that will help keep you and your spouse out of litigation and away from the courts if done correctly. Therefore, the following are a few useful tips and suggestions to be aware of before sitting down for your first 4-Way Settlement Conference.
- Discuss Your Wants with Your Divorce Attorney Beforehand: the purpose of a 4-Way Settlement Conference is exactly that: a settlement. As I am sure your Long Island divorce attorney will advise you, “a good settlement is reached when neither party is happy”; that means that neither you nor your spouse received everything requested. Your divorce attorney is going to need to be aware of those items which are most valuable to you, whether they be child support, spousal maintenance or continuing to reside in the marital residence, so he or she can use other items as bargaining chips to get you closest to an ideal settlement.
- Be Prepared to Speak up If Necessary: as the client, you play an important role at a 4-Way Settlement Conference. In my 15 years of experience I have been party to settlement conferences where the attorneys took the lead and the client’s simply listened. However, I have also been party to settlement conferences where the clients did most, if not all, of the talking and negotiating between themselves. The attorneys were simply there to act as referees and advise their clients. We can never know which way a settlement conference will go beforehand. Therefore, make sure you are prepared to voice your opinions in the event your settlement conference becomes more “hands-on.”
- Listen and Respect the Desires of Your Spouse: I understand that you may find it particularly hard to care what your spouse wants right now. However, a 4-Way Settlement Conference will only be successful if you are both respectful of the other’s thoughts, feelings and desires. These conferences are collaborative in nature and if you enter the room ready to jump down your spouse’s throat it will be a waste of time.
- Your Attorney Is Advocating For You: prior to entering a settlement conference I tell my clients that they will inevitably walk away feeling as though I did not fight for their interests. This is natural. These conferences are not the time for your divorce attorney and your spouse’s divorce attorney to engage in a contest to determine who is better at their job. If you want your attorney to do this, a settlement conference will not prove fruitful. These conferences are a time to gauge your desires and your spouse’s desires so you both know where the other stands.
- Be Open to New and Different Ideas: your spouse’s attorney may suggest solutions to issues their neither you nor your attorney thought of. Rather than automatically rejecting these ideas simply because they came from your spouse or their divorce attorney, Long Islanders are encouraged to consider them. They may have the potential to solve problems while keeping everyone happy.
- You Will Walk Away Realizing How Close You Really are: many couples focus only on the big ticket items when going through their Nassau County or Suffolk County divorce – the children and the marital residence. However, a settlement conference will allow you to see that other issues, such as automobiles, joint banking accounts, retirement benefits or even the family pet are agreed upon. Knowing only two or three issues remain can alleviate a large amount of the stress involved in the divorce process.
A number of my clients are reluctant to agree to a 4-Way Settlement Conference with their spouse and their spouse’s divorce attorney. However, in my 15 years of experience I have found these conferences extremely useful. If the first conference is successful, we will likely schedule another to iron out any remaining issues. Before you know it, your Long Island Divorce will be settled without you ever having to step foot in a Nassau County or Suffolk County, Long Island Divorce courtroom.
Long Island residents who need more information about 4-Way Settlement Conferences should consult a local divorce attorney. Long Island’s Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., PC’s compassionate and experienced divorce attorneys can help you prepare you and ensure you, and your family’s future is protected. Call us today at 631-923-1910 for a complimentary, confidential consultation or fill out the short form on this page and we’ll get right back to you.
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