Will my husband and I have to talk face to face in our Virginia divorce?

Posted on Oct 3, 2016 by Katie Carter

Every marriage – and every divorce – is different. Even though there are certain principles that carry over and are equally true from one divorce to the next, there are also lots of ways we can customize the experience for each client, especially when it comes to negotiating separation agreements. (Obviously, when we go to court, there’s a little bit less freedom, because there are parts that we don’t have control over at all.) What’s true for one woman doesn’t have to be the same for another, and that’s a big part of the reason why I cringe when they tell me things that start with, “Well, except I have a friend, who…”
The truth is, your divorce may be, for a million good reasons, completely different from the one your friend, your cousin, or your new boyfriend went through. Even if your divorces are close in time, happened geographically nearby, and involved some of the same issues, things can vary dramatically.

There’s definitely no “one size fits all” divorce solution, and we work very hard to provide a customizable, totally unique experience for each client. Why? Well, because each client is different, and her case, even if it appears similar, presents unique issues. There are priorities that exist that haven’t existed in other cases, and, at the end of the day, we want our clients to feel like the things that are the most important to them are the most important to us, too. It’s not just a matter of plugging information to a standard form and hoping for the best; ours is a completely customizable experience.
To the fullest extent possible, we try to think of new and different ways of accomplishing our client’s goals. We encourage them to collaborate with us in coming up with solutions because, like we often say, when it comes to separation agreements, we’re only limited by the creativity of the drafters. When our cases wind up in court, it’s often a matter of clever strategy and presenting the information to the judge in a way that paints a realistic picture of the situation at hand. The way we practice, it’s pretty much the opposite of “one size fits all,” and that’s how we like it. That’s how we feel like we do the best job possible for our clients, and that’s important to us.
One of the questions we get early on is “Will I have to talk to my husband face to face during the divorce process?” It’s one we understand, too, but to give a full answer, I’d have to ask a question back. “Do you want to?”
Depending on your case, your husband, and the issues presented, it may be more or less beneficial for you to talk to him face to face during the divorce process. I’ve had cases where it would be completely detrimental, and I’ve had others where we were able to use our extra leverage to our advantage. It really all depends.
The answer is that you don’t have to see him, if you don’t want to, or if you feel like it would be counterproductive. If you want to, though, or you think that there’s some way that the two of you coming together could be beneficial, we wouldn’t rule that out, either.

If you DON’T want to come face to face with your husband in your Virginia divorce

That’s totally fine, and we definitely won’t push you. If, for whatever reason, you feel like facing your husband wouldn’t be in your best interests, we can definitely understand that.

When might it not be a good idea to come face to face with your husband?

It’s probably not a good idea to come face to face with your husband if he has been abusive. Generally speaking, we find that, in abusive relationships, the bargaining power is uneven. One party feels like he can apply pressure to the other party and get his way. That’s not the way we allow our negotiations to take place. We are absolutely not going to force or encourage you to come face to face with your husband in an atmosphere that makes you uncomfortable.
In fact, in many cases, there’s no reason at all for husband and wife to come into contact with each other. We’re negotiating a separation agreement, and we can do everything we need to do through phone, email, and letters to the other side. If your husband is represented by counsel, we will speak directly with his attorney; if he’s pro se (that’s a fancy word we use to describe people who are moving forward without hiring an attorney), we can send letters and other correspondence to him directly.
Most of the time, it really is just a simple matter of making a first offer, and then negotiating the finer points of that offer until we have something that both parties are willing to accept. Do you need to see each other to reach an agreement? Many times, no.
Beyond that, moving forward with the uncontested divorce process won’t require that you see your husband, either. We can file (or he can file, if he’s so inclined), and there’ll be some paperwork going back and forth between the two sides, but you don’t ever have to come face to face if you don’t want to. Most people don’t at this stage. And you can either get divorced in court, through an uncontested divorce hearing, or you can file paperwork to get a divorce done by affidavit. Either way, you won’t have to see your husband. Both parties are rarely ever in court together on an uncontested divorce. If you’re the moving party, only you and your corroborating witness (someone who can testify that you met the legal requirements to get a divorce) will need to testify and, if you have an actual hearing, be present.

If you’d rather talk to your husband face to face in your Virginia divorce

That’s fine, too! Sometimes, for whatever reason, the parties worry that, if they hire an attorney, they’ll give up too much control. They feel afraid that they won’t be able to do things the way they want to, and that the attorney will force them to follow a particular framework. Though that may be the case at other firms, that’s absolutely not how we practice law.
If there’s some reason you want to come face to face with your husband, we’re happy to oblige. In fact, there are lots of ways that we can accomplish that goal and make sure you get what you deserve.

Settlement conferences

In a lot of cases, we schedule a settlement conference. It’s a chance for us to come face to face with your husband and his attorney. In some cases, there’s also a judge present. These are called judicial settlement conferences.
These conferences are often done in an attempt to save the client money, and to encourage settlement by fostering good will and sitting down at the table to discuss the issues at hand. They’re usually pretty successful, though we don’t ALWAYS reach an agreement by the end of the day, we often walk away with more issues resolves than we had when we started.
Coming face to face can be incredibly helpful, but you don’t have to be head to head the whole time, either. Sometimes, in a settlement conference, we find it’s necessary to separate. We’ll go in one room, and the other side will be in another room. The judge will go back and forth between to help facilitate the agreement. So, say you’d like to see each other, but maybe want some freedom while you discuss options with your attorney—that’s a possibility, too. We can be completely flexible.

Collaborative Divorce

Looking for something a little bit different? Collaborative divorce might be the option for you. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a great way to reach a settlement quickly and efficiently.
In a collaborative divorce, you and your husband make a pledge not to go to court. Then, you both hire collaboratively trained attorneys. You each get a divorce coach, too, who helps you navigate through the divorce in as healthy a way as possible. You’ll also share a financial specialist and, if you have children, a child specialist.
In a collaborative divorce, you lay all your cards out on the table. Instead of dealing with each other in an adversarial relationship, you cooperate to reach a decision about how to handle everything—all the assets, and liabilities, plus custody and visitation.
In our office, Sheera Herrell is trained to practice collaborative law. For more information on Sheera, click here, or for more information on collaborative law, click here.
Whether you want to come face to face with your husband or not, the choice is yours. We’re totally flexible, and we’re here to help make sure your divorce runs as smoothly and painlessly as possible. For more information or to schedule an appointment to meet with one of our attorney, give our office a call at (757) 425-5200.