What do we do if we can’t reach an agreement?

When couples want to have an uncontested divorce in Texas without lawyers or an expensive legal process, they often wonder: “What will we do if we confront an issue we just can agree upon? Will we have to hire lawyers just when we thought we could do it on our own?” Those are good questions. In fact, all couples seeking a Texas Divorce should anticipate that there will be times that they won’t see eye-to-eye on how to resolve an issue. But couples still have options short of an expensive legal process even when it seems an agreement is out of reach. Listed below are steps that couples take, listed from least to most intrusive, to break an impasse. It usually helps to start with the least intrusive option and work up from there until the problem is solved.

  1. The easiest way to break an impasse is to drop it. If the problem is not a high priority, save the hard negotiating for the important issues.
  2. Research the issue and bring the results to the attention of your spouse: “Here’s several articles by financial professionals about dividing debt in a divorce—I think they have some ideas we should consider.”
  3. Get third party advice. If the issue is about children’s school placement, consult an education professional. If it is about valuing and selling the marital home, ask a neutral realtor for an appraisal. If it is about the children’s parenting-time schedule, consult a psychologist who specializes in children and divorce.
  4. Utilize an informal mediator, such as a trusted friend, neighbor or religious counsel, to facilitate your discussion and help you identify alternative ways to solve the problem.
  5. Hire an independent mediator who specializes in family law. Many family lawyers and retired Judges, for example, provide such a service as part of their practice.
  6. Agree for a third party or third party source to make the decision for you. If you can’t agree whether the children need counseling, you might agree to follow the pediatrician’s recommendation.  If determining the value of a car in your estate is an issue, agree to use the Blue Book to establish its value.
  7. Hire an independent arbitrator. The American Arbitration Association has a list of trained, certified arbitrators in your community, usually lawyers and retired judges, with special expertise in family law. Each of you will present your perspective, the arbitrator will make the decision.
  8. If all else fails and the issue is important enough to litigate, hire a lawyer to file a motion with the court.

Remember, starting with less intrusive options before resorting to harder strategies, such as hiring an arbitrator or filing a motion with the court, helps to avoid escalating tensions.  And don’t be afraid to ask your spouse which of these problem-solving strategies he or she thinks might work: “We’re stuck, how about if we ask the pediatrician what she thinks?”