Negotiating the best for everyone - Part 4

July 29, 2013 at 4:01 PM

Tips for negotiating your separation

This is the fourth of five articles on managing the legal side of separation published in The Press.17 April 2007

At some stage, almost every separated couple will negotiate with each other. Therefore, it is a good idea if you acquire negotiation skills. Two good negotiators are likely to achieve a better outcome than a good negotiator and a bad negotiator.

Here are a few negotiation tips that can be applied, regardless of whether the negotiation is through lawyers' letters, or in counseling or mediation.

Mutual persuasion. The object of negotiation is to bring the other party to your point of view. Just stating your position will not achieve that. You will need to stand in the shoes of the other party and present arguments that are convincing, or at least appealing, from their point of view. Otherwise they will not agree with you and you will not have attained your objective of a settlement.

Consider the alternatives to settling. In negotiation, you are seeking to achieve the best possible outcome for yourself (and children). It is likely that the other party will propose a settlement that falls short of your ideal outcome. Should you accept that imperfect proposal, or not? That question can only be answered by considering the consequences of your not settling. You need to be clear as to whether you will be better off settling or not settling. You need to be very careful not to reject a less-than-ideal settlement proposal if, in consequence of that rejection, you end up worse off. What you need to do is determine what you might realistically be expected to achieve if you do not settle, and, for example, proceed to court instead.

Risk. Actually, it is not easy to gauge what you might achieve should you not settle. That is because there is inevitably uncertainty. You might succeed in court, but then you might not. What you need to do is a risk analysis: if I do not settle, what is the risk that I will be worse off?

Best, worst and likely scenarios. To assess your risk level should you not settle, it is helpful to work out the very best that you could possibly achieve, and the very worst. The difference may be alarmingly large. In monetary terms it might, for example, be the difference between your former partner paying you $100,000 and you paying them $50,000, a difference of $150,000. In these circumstances, your former partner's proposal to split the difference and pay you $25,000 may be worth serious consideration. To decide whether you should accept such a proposal, you also need to work out the most likely alternative to not settling. If your lawyer tells you there is a 50:50 chance of succeeding, then the $25,000 proposal exactly reflects that. If your lawyer tells you that you have a 75:25 chance of winning, then it may be worth your while to aim for a settlement of around $60,000, but if the odds are 25:75 against you, then a settlement in which you pay your former partner

Category: Family Disputes