Most divorce litigants want to “get this done quickly”, thinking it will save them money. In some instances, it might, but in most, it will not. You really can’t begin negotiating until you have clearly defined goals and priorities and a full understanding of the financial picture.
Start by gathering and organizing your financial information. You should have a comprehensive marital balance sheet, budget, and income summary before you start negotiating. Start working on your net worth statement. This will help you and your lawyer understand what your assets are, what your liabilities are, and what are your needs. The Net Worth Statement can also help evaluate what your rights are to certain property, what property is marital, and what property is separate.
Negotiating too soon almost always backfires. The temptation is to make commitments that you really can’t follow through on – agreeing to too much, not realizing the true cost of maintaining two households. When you negotiate too soon, and then have to back out, the other side won’t trust your word, making it harder to negotiate again.
Divorce is a process, and most likely the most important financial decision you will be making in your lifetime. Why would you want to run the risk of a lousy settlement that will affect you for the rest of a life, by making a snap decision just for the sake of “getting it over with”. This is where you need to think with your brain, not your gut.