Former Dallas Cowboy quarterback and NFL legend Troy Aikman paid $1.75 million dollars to his ex-wife as part of an agreed divorce settlement. Aikman was married to his wife Rhonda for eleven years until the couple split in April 2011. As we have previously blogged, ten years of marriage is a significant turning point under California family law and can greatly impact the rights of the parties to a divorce. Aikman’s estimated net worth is $25 million dollars and it is unclear whether he has or will make additional payments to Rhonda.
The San Diego family court system encourages parties to reach voluntary agreements, rather than pursuing a court-determined judgment. Before a divorce or child custody case will go to trial, the court requires the parties to participate in a mandatory settlement conference. A mandatory settlement conference is overseen by the judge on the case but is facilitated by a volunteer attorney within the community. The volunteer attorney is a recognized family law expert in the field and is called the “settlement judge.” Prior to the conference, the parties are required to submit briefs to the settlement judge so that he or she will have an opportunity to review the facts and issues in the case ahead of time. If the parties are represented, all attorneys are permitted to attend the conference and speak with the settlement judge. However, the settlement judge may ask an attorney to step out of the room so that the judge has an opportunity to hear the client’s concerns. Often, the settlement judge will propose solutions that address the needs and interests of both spouses and most importantly, any children involved in the case. The scope of the issues that the parties can agree on, and therefore exclude from any further litigation, is limitless. The parties may settle property disputes, spousal and child support, child custody and visitation, and any other issues in the particular case.
Settling a case that involves such personal and intimate issues, as in all family law cases, is advantageous for all parties. Reaching a settlement can give parties control over the outcome of the litigation. The order of a judge is not debatable and might not address the specific concerns of all parties. Trial and extended litigation can also be expensive for both parties. The earlier in the process that the parties reach an agreement, the less they will be forced to spend on costs and attorney’s fees. Settlements can also be reached much faster than a final adjudication of the case in court.
If any children are involved in the family law case, settlement can help preserve the relationship between the parties. The adversarial system of litigation can put an even bigger strain on the relationship between the litigants than the process of divorce or separation. It is imperative that, when two parties share a child, they can function as co-parents effectively and pursue the child’s best interests.
Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.