1.3 Reaching an Agreement

How did you do with the goal setting activity in the previous section? Having clear goals will help you approach your separation with more clarity and purpose. These goals will help you keep the big picture in mind, while you are negotiating an agreement with your former spouse.


Agreement or Court?

When a relationship ends, the two spouses need to make some decisions right away: Where will they both live? What about the kids? How will the bills get paid? Etc.

Often, temporary arrangements are made, which gives each spouse a little space and time to step back from the emotional pain of the separation. These temporary arrangements often provide the physical separation needed, while they then move forward to formally separate.

If the two spouses can work things out temporarily, this gives them both a chance to regroup to make bigger decisions later. If the spouses can’t work things out even temporarily, they may need to go to court to get an Interim Order that will provide a temporary fix. Chapter 9 will discuss how these Interim Orders work.

Making agreements in the short term is hard, and making a settlement agreement for your future is even harder. There are a lot of emotions and frustrations. It hurts to separate and to break up a family. But finding a way to work things out together, is a much better option than going to court to have a judge work things out for you.

The separation flowchart below provides a visual overview of the separation/divorce process. It illustrates how the justice system is involved if you can work things out early, if you start the court process and if you go all the way to a trial.

Note that about 50% of couples are usually able to reach an agreement without going to court. And, even after one or both parties start the court process, most separating couples still resolve issues without ever going to trial. In fact, only 6% of couples ever go to a trial.

So, chances are, you and your partner will find a way to work things out before there is a trial. That’s great news. Working things out helps agreements be reached sooner, at less cost, and with far less stress and frustration, compared to going before a judge for a court-ordered separation or divorce.