Settlement out of court is almost always the preferred resolution. This is commonly achieved by a separation agreement.

Before you can make an informed decision about any settlement, you must be very clear about the facts of your situation. This normally includes a complete inventory of the assets and debts attributable to either party, the values of the assets, the balances of debts, and the incomes of the two parties.

You will need to decide how the family assets and debts will be divided. It is preferable to agree on what living arrangements will look like after separation, including the care of children and pets. Once you have an accurate picture of each party’s income, you will need to calculate how much child support will need to be paid. You may need to determine if spousal support is payable and if so, how much and for how long. You will want to understand the law as it applies to your case.

Once you have considered all of these factors, a separation agreement can formalize the arrangements you have made. Commonly, one person may propose the terms of the separation agreement and the other person will respond, advising which parts they agree to and which parts they would like to modify before they agree. This back and forth is called negotiation. It is the most common form of reaching an agreement.

If people can’t reach an agreement on all of the issues, they may choose to attend a mediation or an arbitration, or as a last resort, get a ruling from a judge.