- As in everything we do in this area of the law, PREPARATION is the most important element of a successful divorce negotiation. This means that you must try to have all (or as much as is possible under any given circumstance) of the information and facts developed PRIOR to commencing negotiating. For example, if there is a pension, what part of the pension is marital? What is the present day value of the pension? What are the options for the payout of the pension? When negotiating the division of a pension, these simple facts must be known in order to make informed decisions. If you are working with an attorney, you must be honest and forthright, even about negative facts or events, so that your attorney is not blindsided by information that can change the course of the negotiation. Even bad facts can be neutralized or minimized if they are known by your attorney prior to the start of the negotiation.
- Take the time to understand your best- and worst- case scenario. This often means understanding how the laws and courts work and what they can and cannot provide. Ask your attorney to explain to you what you can expect if you elect to go to court. Without knowing the range of possible outcomes, you cannot make informed choices.
- Try to put emotion aside while you are in a negotiation. Emotions, at least in divorce, often come from the heart and not the brain. Therefore, bad decisions can be made if you are overwhelmed by too much emotion and are not able to access your logical thinking. Working with a mental health professional in coordination with your attorney can help you identify what is most important to you and why. Knowing what is important and prioritizing your needs will help you optimize the outcome of the negotiation.
- Be able to take advantage of opportunities that your spouse presents. For example, your spouse may want to resolve matters quickly and therefore may be more generous if a prompt settlement is possible. Understand these circumstances and use them to your advantage. Sometimes, being able to move quickly is the key to getting an advantageous settlement.
- Make sure you have developed a comprehensive list of issues. There is nothing worse than reaching a deal and then the very next morning, waking up and having to say “we forgot” about something very important. In most cases, negotiating piece-meal is not in your best interests. Plan to be in a position to say “yes” or “no” when all the components of a settlement are set out for your consideration.
Remember being prepared and being ready emotionally and intellectually will allow for a much more successful negotiated resolution. Negotiating a settlement as opposed to going to trial can save, in many cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees. Thus, preparing thoroughly to have a successful negotiation is well worth it to you both in terms of time and money.