A letter of demand is a tactic that many individuals and organizations use to induce another party to take some action. It usually takes the form of a demand for payment. Letters of demand are often sent between divorced or divorcing spouses. If you have received one of these documents, you should follow the guidelines below.
Steps You Can Take
Upon receiving a letter of demand, be careful with the next steps you take. The worst thing you can do is ignore it. You or your business could suffer if you do not answer the letter in a timely fashion. In most cases, you will be required to provide a written reply within a certain timeframe. If you fail to do so, the sending party could take further legal action against you. The first step after receiving a letter of demand, therefore, is to read it! This will enable you to respond, of course, but it may also give you a chance to assess the claim against you and perhaps recognize its validity.
Assess The Validity
Once you have read the demand letter, make a full and honest assessment of the validity of the obligee’s arguments, including whatever amounts you may legitimately owe them. You may find that the demands are more reasonable than you initially cared to admit. Make notes of any discrepancies you might find in the obligee’s accounting of the factual background. You should also consider any deductions or counterclaims that you think you can reasonably make.
Understand The Motives
You will probably have some understanding of the obligee’s motives and expectations. Gather as much insight as you can into what the obligee really wants. Letters of demand are usually written in threatening language, intended to compel you to make a settlement. The obligee will often even accept less than what the letter stipulates. In many cases, the obligee may simply be hoping to coerce you into making an offer so that they can walk away with something. Even if the obligee is standing on shaky ground, they may still believe that they can threaten you into making a settlement in order to avoid litigation.
Determine If a Lawyer is Needed
Having assessed the situation, the next question is, will you need a lawyer, or can the case be resolved without one? If you already have an attorney, you will probably want to have them respond to the opposing counsel on your behalf. If not, you may still want to consider hiring one for the sole purpose of responding to the letter. You can often do so for a one-time legal fee. Having an attorney draft your response adds weight and legitimacy and shows the obligee that you are not prepared to give in to unreasonable demands.
If you decide to respond yourself – i.e., without the help of an attorney, be sure to respond in the timeframe provided. Draft a letter that is factual, formal, and professional. Use a minimum of forceful language and respond in a way that conveys your arguments effectively and cogently, but also courteously. Remember that your response could potentially be used against you in court, so you need to be very careful how you word it.
Westover Law is a firm of family law attorneys and divorce attorneys that has built a sterling reputation throughout Southern California. If you have received a letter of demand, let us help you prepare a response that best suits your interests. Contact us for more information or to book a consultation.