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When a marriage breaks down the rawness of emotion can make negotiation difficult. Poor communication is usually a contributing factor in relationship breakdown which is why separating couples often need our help to reach agreements.
Over the years we’ve developed some tried and trusted techniques to help us negotiate on behalf of our clients and manage difficult meetings between spouses and their legal advisers.
Here are our top 10 tips for coping with difficult discussions during divorce:
- Be polite. After so much negativity in your relationship, the start of negotiations is a time to be affable. It might feel unnatural but remember that the more co-operative you are, the quicker things will be resolved.
- Be honest. Don’t be tempted to hold back information in the hope that it will strengthen your case or win you a better settlement. There will probably be a significant lack of trust between you and your ex but now is not the time to play games. Your solicitor needs to know everything and the whole process will run more smoothly if you can disclose all financial and personal information voluntarily at the outset. This will also help your solicitor to point out any potential difficulties and help you overcome them in good time.
- Be clear. It’s important to spend a bit of time thinking about the outcome you would like to achieve. What things are most important to you? Which areas would you be prepared to compromise on? By having a clear vision in your head of how you’d like your future to look you can go into negotiations with confidence. Share your priorities with your family solicitor so that he or she can guide negotiations appropriately and advise you accordingly.
- Step back. Think about your behaviour to this point. Has it helped or hindered discussions? Is there anything you are doing or thinking that could be holding things up?
- Set some ground rules. Before talks begin, agree that both sides will show respect and give each other a chance to speak.
- Be prepared. Before each meeting write down any questions you want to ask to help you stay focused during discussions.
- Lose your pride. Being prepared to acknowledge your part in any hurt or misunderstanding can really help to diffuse tension. Resentment can build up and create barriers, preventing a settlement from being agreed even when everything has been worked out. A willingness to acknowledge your role in the break up may cost a little pride but could save you months of stress.
- Don’t get personal. Admittedly, it doesn’t get more personal than divorce but we’re talking about the negotiations here. You’re not fighting for election, you’re planning for your future. The time for mud-slinging is past and now it’s all about reaching an agreement.
- Don’t refuse to co-operate. No matter how wide the gap between the two sides, there can never be any end to the matter without negotiation and compromise. Digging your heels in will only prolong the unhappiness, increase the expense and delay the opportunity to get on with your life.
- Plan ahead. Once you have successfully negotiated your divorce settlement, think carefully about what worked and what didn’t. There are likely to be times ahead when you need to discuss things with your ex, particularly if you have children, so draw on your experience and put the same skills into practice.