Most lawyers will say it is very unwise to even attempt to negotiate a divorce settlement with your spouse, primarily as most lawyers think they can better negotiate on your behalf.
And they often can…but not all the time. When a lawyer becomes involved, the lawyer of your spouse also gets involved. The result is two lawyers playing games with your assets and your future life while you pay them for the pleasure of doing so.
Also, even if the “big stuff” is being taken care of by the lawyer, you will still have to negotiate the “small stuff” with your spouse, household items, etc. The best way to negotiate a divorce settlement with your spouse is to:
1. Check Your Finances
Prior to starting a negotiation, you must have a very clear understanding of your financial situation meaning you need to understand what you owe and what you own.
A financial advisor, if needed, can explain your finances to you. Having done that if you still do not feel comfortable talking finance, do not negotiate for yourself. You will likely lose more by yourself than the cost of a lawyer guided divorce negotiation on your behalf.
2. Learn How The Divorce System Works
Judges have a duty to place the reasonable needs of the children above either parent so unless they are shown an extremely good reason, the Court will make you comply with the child support laws of the state. This means establishing a set parenting schedule, allowing a full relationship with both you and your children. The Court will also insist your divorce settlement is fair and equitable.
One need not possess a law degree to understands the basics of divorce settlement negotiation. You can spend an hour two with a lawyer or a divorce educator. Make sure you do your homework before you initiate negotiations.
3. Determine Your Needs & Wants
Simple to say but many people never consider what is “fair” when thinking of what they need when in divorce negotiation. Often, they can express what they do not want but are less sure at describing what they do need.
You must know what you want if you are going to do the negotiations yourself. You will need a balance sheet and a budget. Once you know your needs and wants, rank them in order of importance to you. You are going to have to compromise but at least this way you can negotiate for what you need.
4. Plan for Best & Worst Case Scenarios
Here are two acronyms you need to know:
BATNA = “Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.”
WATNA = “Worst Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.”
In a divorce negotiation, BATNA and WATNA represent the best and worst things that may happen to you if the case cannot be settled and goes to trial. Going to trial is expensive, unpredictable, and emotional. Settlements are the contrary.
Ask your lawyer what will happen to your BATNA and WATNA should you go to trial. Once you have that information, you can decide if going to trial makes sense or not. If the WATNA of your spouse is worse than you could get at trial, there is little point to accepting their proposal.
5. Cooperate & Compromise
Knowing the wants and needs of your spouse is just as important as realizing your own wants and needs (Also helps if you can work out their BATNA and WATNA as well.)
The more insight you have into the above factors, the more you can negotiate in a manner ultimately satisfying both of you. Remember: Negotiation requires compromise and cooperation. The more win-win scenarios you create, the more likely you are to succeed in settling your case amicably and on the terms, you want! Nobody walks away from a settlement in a divorce feeling happy, both sides must give to reach a fair and final result to enable both of your lives to resume.
6. Negotiate a Fair Agreement
You must be prepared to walk away if your spouse and you cannot settle on terms. This means you have to comprehend what you can and cannot live with before you commence negotiating. And if reject proposals fall short, you must have the courage to reject them and to proceed with litigation. You must also ensure that you have the financial resources to wage that litigation if settlement cannot be reached.
A very important tactic of knowing your bottom line is reality testing it before it becomes your bottom line. When your bottom line is just not a realistic proposition, negotiating a fair agreement is near impossible. Clinging to desires that will never be met is ultimately futile and typically self-destructive.
7. Leave Emotions at the Door
Many people would rather a lawyer negotiate for them because you do need to keep your emotions in check when negotiating – it is also a reason why getting a therapist is a good idea when you are getting divorced.
Nothing is going to derail a good proposal quicker than resuming old arguments that have been had many times before. If things do become too heated, it is time for a break to let you and your spouse both cool down and resume your negotiations from there. Perhaps break for the day and come back the following week, do whatever it takes to keep up the momentum towards settlement.
8. Develop Different Settlement Scenarios
With compromise being the key, remember if you can keep an open mind and be prepared to brainstorm alternatives, the likelihood leans towards settling your divorce amicably.
If you are not sure what alternatives and compromises you may have at your disposal, ask your lawyer. They can come up with multiple scenarios that might meet the needs of everyone concerned. Also, listen to the ideas of your spouse, the more options you have, the more likely you will find a settlement that works for everyone.
9. Make Agreements
Ideally, you and your spouse will negotiate in a neutral place. Set aside a couple of hours so no one is worried about missing an appointment should your negotiations overrun on time.
Your spouse and you also need to agree on who writes down what you agree on and whether agreements are subject to the approval of your attorney’s approval before they are finalized and signed.
There is nothing that will poison your relationship faster than if one party tried to change something after you were both under the impression the other party had agreed to previous terms.
10. Create a Plan
Having goals is great but you need a plan to achieve your goals because if you do not the odds of you being successful go down dramatically.
A plan means knowing what you want from the outset and brainstorming different methods to get you where you want before you commence negotiation. It does not mean starting your negotiation with your bottom line. Start by asking for more, so you have something to give up. The best negotiations are where everyone feels as if they “won” something and they can live with what they lost in the process of reaching a mutually ratified and successful conclusion.
11. Hire a Divorce Mediator
If you haven’t already, consider hiring a divorce mediator or collaborative divorce lawyer to seal the deal and make the divorce final. Many people attend mediation sessions with their own divorce lawyer in tow.
Why You Might Want To Negotiate With Your Ex (Or Soon To Be Ex)
You can save time and money by negotiating your own divorce settlement if you can do the negotiation.
Additional benefits lawyers often do not speak of using this method is known as “buy-in.”
If your spouse and you have been active in discussions from the outset regarding divorce negotiations, it is far more likely the divorce settlement will be ultimately accepted.
Family courts are full of people who have already divorced fighting with their former partners! If you think your divorce settlement was rammed down your throat, there is usually no issue trying to alter or modify it later, typically at high cost and fees for both parties.
The Dangers Of Negotiating For Yourself
Negotiating for yourself is full of pitfalls if you do not have the capability to negotiate or are unaware of what you must negotiate about – you can end up losing far more than you initially realized.
At least everyone fears that. This where lawyers usually enter the picture, and for a reason.
However, negotiation with your spouse does not have to be tough. Plus, when your divorce is going slowly, the legal fees are racking up, you may have to negotiate with your spouse just to close the deal so you can both move forward with your lives and stop spending legal fees.
So even though you may think you would never negotiate with your spouse – you may find you have to, but do not worry, it happens all the time!
If you are still on speaking terms – it is worth the effort – but you need to know what you are doing.
Here are ten top tips to help with negotiating with your spouse or your ex.
Should You Negotiate Your Own Divorce?
Negotiating a divorce is not easy – it is not fun, but it is doable even if you lack a background in finance and you do not need a law degree.
So, if you and your spouse decided to give direct divorce negotiation a try, be prepared. Get some divorce advice from your attorney, go through the above ten tips and make sure you understand the basics of your finances and your legal options before you start. Know what you want and need, be flexible and have a plan. Know what the law does or does not allow for each disputed item.
if you do not wish to negotiate alone think about doing a collaborative divorce or hiring the services of a mediator. That way you have more backing when you must negotiate.
Be sure to analyze your options before you commence. Be honest with yourself about what you want to achieve. If you are incapable of standing up for yourself, it may be very foolish to negotiate a divorce settlement yourself.
If your spouse and you can remain civil and you are both ready to undertake the work to prepare and resolve your outstanding divorce issues, negotiating with your spouse will undoubtedly save you a great deal of time and money.
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Negotiate Divorce Settlements In Scottsdale & Phoenix
We have a network of Arizona attorneys, tax professionals, estate planners, financial planners, child specialists, real property appraisers, adult and child therapists and parenting coordinators who are here for you if you ever need them. Our divorce mediators and collaborative divorce lawyers in Scottsdale can help negotiate your divorce settlement, make your divorce less stressful, and keep you in control. Call today for an initial consultation at 480-240-0040 or [email protected]