But what is divorce negotiation, and how can you do it successfully?
What is Divorce Negotiation?
Negotiation during divorce is a back-and-forth between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse that allows you to reach a fair, equitable outcome. While many people choose to work with a mediator, that may not be necessary if you and your spouse can agree to a few ground rules.
5 Ground Rules for Divorce Negotiation
The basic rules for divorce negotiation are:
- Be prepared
- Be cordial to each other and don’t get personal
- Do not use ultimatums
- Avoid giving deadlines
- Keep your cool
Divorce Negotiation Rule #1: Be Prepared
Know what you want and what you’re willing to accept before you begin negotiating with your spouse. Write down what you’d like to see happen, and be realistic. Know that you may not get everything you want, and prepare yourself by remembering that negotiation is about give-and-take.
Divorce Negotiation Rule #2: Be Cordial to Each Other and Don’t Get Personal
You may not even want to talk to your spouse, let alone agree to anything – but you have to commit to staying cordial or you’ll stall negotiations completely. Once you cross the line into personal insults, your ex will shut down and stop dealing with you, and that means you’ll have to drag your issues to court (and the judge will take the outcome out of your hands).
Divorce Negotiation Rule #3: Do Not Use Ultimatums
Some issues are more important than others, and there might be some issues you’re not willing to negotiate on at all – but if you frame these issues in a “if you do this, I’ll do that” way, you’re almost asking your ex to call you on it. Instead, share your ideas with your spouse and leave things open-ended. Try saying something like, “This is what I propose, and I think it’s reasonable. If you disagree, please let me know why and what you think would be more reasonable.”
Divorce Negotiation Rule #4: Avoid Giving Deadlines
Deadlines are ultimatums in disguise. Don’t say, “You have until tomorrow at 10 a.m. to decide,” because what your spouse hears is, “If you don’t do what I want, I’m going to make this harder for you.” Remember that your spouse wants to get this over with just like you do, and the fastest way to do that is to reach agreements on your own terms.
Divorce Negotiation Rule #5: Keep Your Cool
Letting your emotions take over can be a disaster. When you become angry or upset, rational thought takes a hike – and you’ll say or do things you’ll later regret. If you become emotional when you’re trying to negotiate with your spouse (and we know, this is hard), it’s important that you take a step back and wait until you’ve cooled off to make important decisions.
Some people find it helpful to talk to a therapist or counselor who can teach them new coping strategies and ways to keep calm when confronted with emotional issues.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Divorce Negotiation?