“Fair” is a difficult word in family law cases. There is little fair about the loss of a marriage and family. Therefore, “fair” is a word I try to avoid.
Instead of the word “fair” I usually focus on the word “reasonable.” “Reasonable” invites a more objective and less subjective focus.
So with those semantics out of the way, when you are discussing settlement how do you know what a reasonable settlement is? That’s a question I get asked all the time. It usually is formed around questions from my clients such as “is this a good deal” and “how should regarding respond” and so on.
So what is a reasonable settlement? In almost every situation the standard of reasonability of a settlement option is what judge would do after hearing the facts of your case. If you accept more if you’re able to negotiate more than a judge would likely award to you then you have a very good deal. If you accept less than a judge would likely award you then your deal is not so good.
That always invites the question: “Thanks for that Scott, but how am I to know what a judge is likely to do? The answer to that is where the problem arises. In Wake County, like most North Carolina judicial districts, there is more than one judge getting sitting for domestic law cases. Every judge is different and in North Carolina family law cases the district court judge is generally granted very broad discretion in interpreting the evidence and applying the evidence to the law.
Therefore, it is not easy to predict what a judge will do. It is certainly not possible for an attorney to promise you that he or she knows what a judge would do.
What you have to do is rely on your attorney to guide you. Your attorney’s experience and knowledge in handling cases cases in front of the judges where your case is to be held are the important issues. With that knowledge gained from experience, your attorney will be able to suggest likely outcomes so you can then decide if the settlement is reasonable.
Scott Allen is a divorce attorney in Raleigh, NC with over twenty years of experience in all areas of family law litigation and settlement. He can be reached at 919.863.4183 and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org