Settling Your Divorce: Tips for Successful Settlement Negotiations – Part II

Last week, we gave you 5 tips for successful settlement negotiations. Those tips can help you prepare for your discussions and plan for your family’s future. If you are heading in this direction, but cannot seem to get a deal finalized, there may be a reason, or five, about why your settlement negotiations are not quite working.

  1. You need to check on your priorities. When you started thinking and talking about divorce, you may not yet have known what was going to be most important to you or most difficult to resolve. Even if you knew what you wanted, your priorities might have changed over time. Perhaps Christmas with the children was once the most important issue, but now, you can see that it might be better to alternate it annually with your co-parent, to provide your children with a chance to make memories with both of you. Focus upon what you know you are legally entitled to have, in any settlement, then make three lists: what you need; what it would be nice to have, if possible; what you are ready to let go, even if it was once a high priority.
  2. You don’t know what your spouse wants. Until you know what your spouse wants, you cannot begin to discuss the settlement terms that might be acceptable to them. Even if you think you knew what used to be important, or crucial, priorities change over time. Some people negotiate openly, so you know what is truly significant, but others may try to hide what they want, making it harder for you to find a way to accommodate their requests while still protecting your own goals. Your attorney may have to make blunt requests, or a series of well-designed offers, to try to figure out what your spouse wants and to break through any stalemate.
  3. You can’t see the overlap between your priorities and your spouses’ priorities. Common ground can have tangible and intangible values. You may both want to divorce quickly, but there may be significant financial benefits to waiting until 2021, such as being able to file joint tax returns for 2020, which often produces mutually beneficial tax savings. Perhaps you can both economically benefit. Your spouse may want to keep the marital residence, and you may want quick cash to be able to downsize to a smaller home – maybe you can both have what you want there too, with a home equity line, refinance or use of other funds. Resist the urge to say “no” to what you are asked to contribute to the deal, and consider how you can make the deal mutually beneficial.
  4. Digital disconnect: Participating in any meeting from the comfort of your home can be reassuring. At the same time, negotiating over Zoom or another video conferencing program is literally distancing. You cannot look anyone straight in the eye, move around, or quickly share notes or documents. It’s difficult but, for now, it is one of our best options. Talk to your lawyer and mediator about how to prepare for this challenge, and be patient.
  5. Emotional overload:   We understand that you are making decisions that will change your life. You deserve time to think about your options and to do your best to set aside emotions that might cloud your judgment. Be honest and speak up when you need that opportunity. Also, remember that you probably know your spouse better than anyone else involved and pay attention to their body language, facial expressions, and any indication that they may need a break. Alert your attorney, or the mediator, so that the negotiations do not deteriorate when it would be easy to take a moment to regroup or try to relax.

You can overcome these, and most other obstacles to a settlement. Keep control over the decisions that impact your family.

The family law attorneys at Cohn Lifland have substantial knowledge and experience in settling divorce cases. If you have any questions regarding the divorce process, contact the family law attorneys at Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann & Knopf, LLP.