The term “reasonable” is objective, and is simply defined as something that is fair and sensible. In connection with divorces, it is often said that the best settlement agreement is one wherein neither side is completely satisfied. While this saying may seem peculiar, it is meant to indicate that the agreement resulted in a fair outcome rather than one which is one-sided, unconscionable or entered into under duress.
In order to arrive at a reasonable resolution in a divorce, a party should begin with determining his/her priorities and non-negotiables, and discussing same with his/her attorney. Thereafter, negotiations proceed to focus on attaining that particular goal. Despite this, it is important to remain flexible in this regard, as sometimes, as the financial circumstances become clearer, it is not realistic for a party to hold fast to a particular non-negotiable. For example, if one party wishes to buyout the real property interest of another by waiving his/her portion of all other assets, that buying party may not be liquid, and unable to afford to maintain the property and still have money for basic living expenses.
When attempting to negotiate a reasonable agreement, it is also critical to be forward thinking regarding where and how you want to live. Of course, in connection with spousal and child support there are statutory calculations, but parties are permitted to deviate from these numbers in a signed agreement. For example, parties will sometimes agree to a larger or smaller number (or duration) of support, in order to glean an alternative benefit. How reasonable this deviation is will depend on whether the parties have thought of the long term implications of same. Another example is negotiating a radius clause in connection with where the custodial parent may relocate. In this regard, forward thinking considerations may include, but not be limited to where the custodial parent can afford to live based upon the financial terms of the agreement and what familial and childcare support the custodial parent has in the vicinity.
Most litigants believe that his/her divorce is too prolonged and too expensive. As a result, some litigants throw up his/her hands and agree to certain resolutions merely to end the litigation. On occasion, a litigant may even “give up the farm” in order to end the litigation. This type of maneuver, although understandable, is often unreasonable, unless the party has unlimited financial resources.
It is natural for individuals involved in a contentious divorce to become overwhelmed, but making impulsive decisions in the litigation may have long terms consequences. Thus, it is important to be reasonable in your negotiations, with an eye towards your future and that of any existing children.