Mediating Conflict,
Embracing Peace

Crossover between property division negotiations and child custody arrangements

In our last post, we commented that divorce settlements do not always need to be measured in strict financial terms to be considered fair. In other words, couples should not necessarily assume in property division negotiations that the only way to negotiate with one another is to fight over assets and debts, even though that may be the obvious thing to do.

We are certainly not arguing here that one should not care about the financial outcome of divorce. In any divorce, it is crucial to carefully consider the financial aspects of divorce and negotiate for the best outcome for oneself. This is particularly important for parties who are financially weaker. What we are saying, though, is that a little creativity in negotiations can give a party more options to achieve a satisfactory outcome.

One example of what we are talking about is that couples may find that there is a certain amount of crossover between property division issues and child custody matters. Couples cannot, of course, take it upon themselves to determine what is in the best interests of their children. That is a legal determination to be made by the court. What they can do, though, is agree to work together to come up with a mutually satisfactory arrangement regarding parenting time or joint custody decision-making. A spouse’s willingness to cooperate in this effort can be influenced by property division negotiations.

An example of how this crossover might play out is that the husband may agree to not object to his wife’s taking the family home in exchange to her not objecting to his decision to send the children to a particular school. Or, the wife may request to have certain holidays with the kids in exchange for the husband’s request to take title to a family vehicle. The possibilities will vary according to each family’s circumstances.

It should be emphasized, again, that matters related to child custody always have to be finally approved by the court in accordance with the best interests of the children. In cases where both parents are deemed fit and have good relationships with the kids, though, the court may be inclined to approve an arrangement as long as both parents can live with it and cooperate with one another. It is these types of openings that can be used to broaden the scope of property division negotiations. An experienced advocate knows how to look for them and how to make use of them to achieve the best outcome for his or her client.