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People considering filing for divorce have many questions.

They ask: How much alimony do I have to pay - if any? How much child support will I owe? How long I will have to pay? How much of my pension does she/he get?

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When filing for divorce, you and your spouse may negotiate a settlement between yourselves or a judge may determine the conclusion for you.

In most states there are now formal guidelines that the court must follow in awarding child support. But in most states, and on most issues, judges can make rulings at their own discretion after hearing evidence.

If you and your spouse end up going to trial, it can be risky and is generally something to be avoided.

Most judges do their best to be fair and professional, but like the rest of us, judges are susceptible to their own prejudices and biases. If you don't like the judge's decisions, you can appeal to a higher court.

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But few people filing for divorce ever utilize the appeal process. Appeals are difficult to win because the burden is on the person making the appeal to prove to the higher court that the trial judge misinterpreted the law or abused the discretion permitted the judge by law.

If you're one of the few who wins an appeal, what you generally get is a new trial. The only way to be sure that your divorce meets your needs is for you and your spouse to negotiate the resolution yourselves.

When filing for divorce and negotiating your agreement, you negotiate a contract voluntarily. You sign it voluntarily.

You cannot decide that neither of you will support your children or subject your children to danger or neglect. But, within very broad limits you are free to decide together how you will reasonably resolve the issues at hand.

Settlement arrangements are negotiated in the shadow of the law. This means that you negotiate with an eye on what you think would happen if you were to go to trial and let the judge decide.

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