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  • Laura L. Van Tassel, Esq.

Negotiating Your Divorce

Over the past 31 years, I have mediated the divorces of thousands of couples, and one thing I know for sure is …negotiating your divorce settlement definitely isn’t for everyone. But, if you can do it, you can save a ton of time. money and grief.

If you are still on speaking terms and want to try to negotiate with your spouse – either alone or with a mediator – it’s definitely worth a try.

Before you start, you should know what you are doing. It’s often assumed that everyone can negotiate, but successfully negotiating a divorce settlement can be tricky. Not only do you need to understand what the law says about dividing your finances, but you also need to keep your emotions in check.

Read my 6 negotiation tips to help you settle your divorce yourselves. I’ve also included some things to watch out for that might mean you’re better off getting some negotiation support:

  1. Make sure you’re ‘divorce ready’ This means dealing with the raw emotions and being in a place where you’re calm and rational enough to think strategically and not focus on revenge, retaliation or making your partner pay for ‘wrongs’ of the past.

  2. Practice staying calm and in control of your emotions Is there a specific point of disagreement that you and your ex have or is it something they say or do that triggers a negative reaction in you. Once you have worked out what sets you off, you can be mindful of your response when faced with these triggers and make a conscious and positive choice to respond in a calm and measured way. Whatever it is, identify it and practice staying calm when thinking about it or experiencing it. Consider role-playing with a friend.. until you feel ready.

  3. Negotiate from a position of knowledge Do you know what the law in your state says about splitting assets? Don’t guess, don’t rely on what happened in your friend’s divorce – find out. You can use google for general legal information or book a free consultation call.

  4. Be clear on what you want A successful settlement has to work for both of you, so you need to work out what you really want. When emotions are running high and your opinion of your former spouse is at an all-time low, it’s surprisingly easy to find yourself fighting like crazy to keep a hold of assets that you may not even really want. Make a prioritized list of what you “really want” to come away with and avoid cutting off your nose to spite your face. It’s pretty unlikely that you’ll be able to achieve every single one of your wants, so it’s essential to try for the ones most important to you first. Prioritizing will help you make decisions when it is time to make compromises. The hope is that you both can compromise a less-important “want” in order to achieve a more-important one, reaching resolution.

  5. Don’t be a bully Don’t tell someone what you’re not going to do or not going to accept…Your way is not the only way to do things. (Sorry!) The more you can keep an open mind and brainstorm alternatives, the more likely you will be to settle your divorce amicably. Talk about what’s possible, what’s acceptable.

  6. Play Nice Don't make new demands every time you get a concession. This creates the impression that you are never satisfied and are negotiating in bad faith.

Sometimes, when tensions just run too high, it is easiest to use an impartial third party to help keep communication running smoothly, rather than relying on the individuals going through the divorce who may be hurt, sad or angry.

Here are some signs you need supported negotiation:

  • You or your partner critique each other (rather than critique ideas)

  • There is contempt, personal attacks, body language such as eye rolling

  • You feel you are unable to get your point across to your partner

  • There is frequent outward hostility or anger from one or both of you

  • Digging in – one or both of you is/are not willing to see other’s point of view

  • One of you has narcissistic tendencies.

  • All or nothing thinking – extreme views are held and total disaster is predicted if things don’t go your/their way.

  • You are better at blaming each other rather than finding solutions.

  • Things always rapidly descend into an argument

If you don’t want to negotiate alone think about hiring a mediator, or doing a collaborative divorce. That way, you will have more support while you are negotiating, click here to learn more.

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