There are three ways to work through and around a separation or divorce. Once you have made an effort to communicate with your spouse to avoid further conflict and misunderstandings that will only aggravate an already rough or difficult situation, you can use any or a combination of these methods to process or proceed with the negotiations to settle the terms of your divorce. Do your best to come up with terms for the benefit of you both and your children.

Judicial Proceedings

Though the first to come to mind when dealing with separation or divorce, this is the method least used. Terms on issues such as custody, spousal support, property division and settlement can be litigated in court. In New Jersey, you may have judicial proceedings for various purposes. These include, but are not limited to, settlement conferences, Early Settlement Panels, Custody and Parenting time mediation, Motion hearings and Trial.

Attorney Negotiations

Attorney negotiations are conducted between your lawyer and the lawyer of your spouse. After a successful negotiation, when all the terms on custody, spousal support, and property issues have been discussed and the two parties have come to a full agreement, this agreement will be formalized in a Matrimonial Settlement Agreement. Make no mistake, this written document is a binding contract. Proposed either by your lawyer with revisions by your spouse’s lawyer, all parts of this document are enforceable and will be the foundation of your divorce moving forward. It shall then be entered in the court file without any lengthy hearing of it as evidence.

Direct Negotiation

The third method can be applied with or without the shadow and support of lawyers, mediators, or counselors in the background. Following direct negotiation, you and your spouse might try to start negotiating the terms in your agreement. A marriage that was short-lived without any complicated child, financial, or property issues can be best worked out using this method.

But, if your marriage is riddled with complex issues and difficult financial and property entanglements and encumbrances, then this method may not be advisable. It is always best to have whatever agreement you have come to with your spouse, formalized by an experienced divorce attorney. Drafting the final writing of an agreement with gaps can haunt and trouble you for the rest of your life. Proceeding with this method when you’ve had a long marriage and a complicated separation will force you to deal with these burdens:

(1) Noncompliance with the contract – this is either because you and your spouse have different interpretations of the terms in the agreement or because certain provisions are very difficult to put into concrete terms that no one really knows for certain what they mean.

(2) Conflict over issues that were never even discussed as part of the contract or agreement – issues such as means of communication between children and the parent who was granted only visitation rights (without full custody), such as telephone contact with the children and transportation expenses for visitations.

(3) Emotional distress and lots of mental stress for the children, because their parents are very unhappy and dissatisfied with the written agreement.

An agreement that was drafted at home by two bickering people in a tense and environment or atmosphere and carried to its fulfillment in final writing is absolutely not a substitute for an all-inclusive written document that only a professional can do for your own good and that of your children. Only a professional has the practical, concrete, and comprehensive knowledge necessary and indispensable in navigating a complicated divorce process and other family law problems.