Preparation for Settlement Facilitation

Preparation for settlement facilitation is extremely important.  The parties, their attorneys and the settlement facilitator should know and understand all the issues that need to be addressed in the final Marital Settlement Agreement.

The issues that should be addressed at settlement facilitation include child custody & time-sharing, child support, division of property and debt, alimony/spousal support and so on.  This means that the parties need to come to the facilitation with complete knowledge and disclosure of all assets, bank accounts, investments, debt, mortgages, retirement accounts, income and the like so that each and every detail is addressed in the Marital Settlement Agreement prior to leaving the facilitation.

Most good settlement facilitators will bring the parties to an agreement by the end of the facilitation.  When there is a failure to reach an agreement, it is rarely the fault of the facilitator.  It more generally results from the failure of the parties to adequately prepare.  This most often occurs when the parties have not fully accounted for or disclosed assets, debt or income.  Without full and complete disclosure by both parties, a fair settlement is impossible.

A good facilitator will recognize the lack of full disclosure, whether it is innocent or intentional.  At that point, the parties have a couple of options, they can enter a limited settlement addressing those terms that can be intelligently addressed with the information available at facilitation.  In the alternative, and the more prudent route due to connectedness of many of the issues, the parties can reconvene the facilitation at a later date once the gaps in information have been filled by the parties and their attorneys.

Each party should keep in mind that failure to disclose assets, property and debt is considered fraud.   A failure to disclose can and often does nullify the Marital Settlement Agreement even if the agreement has been filed with the court.  This is so even when the fraud is discovered years later.  As one might imagine, fraud on the court is not looked upon kindly by judges.  As such, there can be serious repercussions for such behavior.  This once again points to the importance of preparation as even innocent non-disclosure may prove difficult to defend before the court.

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