I have been thinking about the difficult work of negotiation in family law cases. So much about negotiating involves understanding what you really want, what they really want, and how to provide both. It’s about listening. Focusing in on what matters. Conceding.
Honestly, these are the skills that make for a successful marriage. You can understand why they are rare in divorce litigation.
And yet, my clients do it every day. They come to me asking about rights and duties, and my job is to empower them with information and let them make choices. Occasionally we can’t come to a middle place and we go litigate so someone in a robe can tell my clients what to do, but that is thankfully rare. Most of my clients make heroic efforts to move on. In cases with criminal activity or violence, you can bet we’re not keen on negotiating, but otherwise our firm focuses on working things out in order to get you out.
Here are a few tips for negotiating in divorce:
1. Take the long view: If you have children, this point is a bit obvious. Marriage is temporary but baby daddies are forever, as I often say. But even without kids, you and your spouse have been part of several communities as one person for some time. Don’t poison those wells. Work together to resolve what you can.
2. Consider a third voice: Get someone else involved in your case. No, not your new boy/girlfriend or your mother-in-law, but a mediator, a pastor, a collaborative divorce attorney, etc. Someone neutral and experienced. Again, if you and your spouse could work things out between yourselves, odds are you wouldn’t be getting divorced. I know that sometimes all you want is someone to draw up paperwork, but even that tells me you can’t go it alone. Look for qualified help.
3. Hire the right lawyer: This sounds self-serving, but I’m not necessarily saying for you to hire us. I’m saying you should hire the right lawyer for you. If you want to get out quickly and peacefully, hire a lawyer that specializes in that; if you want a pitbull because the other side has been violent or criminal, find that attorney; if you want something in the middle, proactively search that person out. If you rely on a website and a Yelp review to make this very personal decision, it’s buyer beware. Do a consultation. This decision will have a huge impact on your life (and probably your pocketbook). Do it right.
We could talk all day about how to negotiate in a divorce. Hopefully these few tips will help move you in the right direction. If you seek out help, potentially by hiring the right lawyer for your situation, and stay focused on the big picture, I am confident you will transition well into your new reality.
Let us know if we can help.