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Can a Dissolution Action be Settled between Parties?
Your case may be settled at any time. Bear in mind that you must know the extent and values of all assets, income, debt, etc. Most records may be subpoenaed to ascertain property values. Knowing these values, we may be able to facilitate an ultimate settlement. Please note that a settlement should be under the guidance of your attorney and only after careful consideration of all factors regarding income, assets, debts, risks, and expectations.
We ask you to remember, you engaged our services to protect you and you should not sign any agreement until your attorney has reviewed it with you. Settlements normally are negotiated by your attorney and your spouse’s attorney with you and your spouse participating through your respective attorney. One of the most difficult requests that we make of our clients is that they be patient as their cases progress through the legal system.
A document may be drafted reflecting any arrangement that has been reached. It is combined with official documents such as a Decree of Dissolution and submitted to a judge for her signature after the 90-day waiting period, or as soon thereafter as an agreement has been reached. Agreements are approved routinely by the court, and only one party needs to appear in court on the day the divorce is finalized. Normally, the party who originally filed the divorce is the one to appear in court, but this is not mandatory and may even be a part of the negotiations to settle your case. The odds are in your favor eventually to settle your case, in Snohomish County about 97% of divorce cases are settled without trial.
Snohomish County now requires that all dissolution cases participate in a mandatory mediation before the case may be confirmed for trial. There are a variety of mediators available. The court will accept mediation by any neutral third party whom both the litigants agree may attempt to help them reach a settlement. Such persons may include clergy, mutual friends a trusted relative or neighbors. Mediation services are available through some organizations such as the Dispute Resolution Center of the Volunteers of America.
Often, where there are complex legal issues your attorney may suggest that you agree to employ a “professional” mediator from a pool of former judges, court commissioner’s, retired, or practicing attorneys who agreed to mediate cases for a fee. Normally you will be requested to advance a fee deposit to cover the expected length of time of the mediation. Customarily each party will be expected to contribute one half of the fee deposit and there may be additional charges if the length of time to reach a settlement exceeds the amount of the deposit. Some of these mediators will not agree to mediate cases where one party is not represented by an attorney.
Successful mediation requires substantial preparation so that your attorney is extremely familiar with your case and ready to take it to trial. Being ready for trial will require that your attorney have collected all the information needed to assess accurately all the nuances of your case. Making that information available to the mediator and to the other side is a part of mediation and the trial process.