Survival Guide for “Four-Way” Meetings

four-way-meeting.jpgIn San Diego family law cases “four-way” meetings are commonly used to settle divorce cases. A four-way meeting (commonly referred to as “four-way”) in a divorce action is a face-to-face meeting between the two parties and their respective attorneys. Four-ways are notoriously dreaded by family law litigants because the litigants will be required to sit in a room with their spouse and discuss the “tough issues” which have created an impasse to settlement. Family law attorneys also conduct “five-way” meetings and invite a financial expert (or any other type of expert) to weigh in on the discussion. In preparation for an important four-way there are many things a litigant can do to help the process move along smoothly.

Meet with your Attorney Beforehand: Experienced family law attorneys make it a habit to meet with their clients before any four-way. This meeting provides the client with an opportunity to discuss his or her concerns, goals, and fears with the attorney. In turn, the attorney can provide clarification if needed and ensure the client’s interests are protected and validated. The “pre-meeting” is also a good time to discuss communication preferences and for the attorney to find out if the client expects to communicate on behalf of him/herself or would rather take a “back seat” to the conversation.

Focus on your Goals: During a four-way when the litigants are sitting face-to-face, it is often tempting for one or both parties to be critical, accusatory, or sarcastic. These types of comments can often derail otherwise good progress and deter settlement. Try to focus on the “bigger picture” during the four-way and save any pent up feelings of anger and resentment for another day. It is much easier to convince the other side that what you want is best for him or her as well.

Listen with an Open Mind: Generally attorneys decide to hold a four-way because the parties have reached some impasse in negotiations which the attorneys believe can be resolved. If both you are stuck in the mud on your relative positions then neither of you are working toward a mutually beneficial resolution. Further, it is unlikely that if the issue proceeds to court, either of you will get exactly what you are asking for. This is because courts are generally limited to fixed solutions they can provide. A four-way meeting provides the attorneys and clients a chance to consider alternative solutions and avoid the court system altogether. Many issues litigated in family law cases are much too personal and important to just hand over to a stranger to decide. Certainty and peace of mind are often more valuable than the issue the parties are fighting over.

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.

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