Is it Time to Negotiate?

By Marlo Van Oorschot
Van Oorschot Law Group PC

By June, in the world of divorce, it’s time to think about how to resolve the divorce if there is a desire by the clients to be divorced by the end of the year. By June, it’s too late to attempt to set the matter for trial, complete the trial and resolve the case before the end of the year.  This means that negotiations should start to occur, which is a very positive and productive thing to happen in a divorce case.

Leaving issues of children, money and property to a judge to decide is usually the worst decision because it is expensive, and the results are unpredictable.  Negotiations cost less money, the results are controllable, and resolution only occurs if both parties agree. Being able to control an outcome is the best result. Here are a few tips to consider when negotiating the issues in a divorce.

Emotions. Emotions run high in family law cases. Working to control emotions so clear-minded decision making can occur is critical to moving a case to resolution through negotiations. Working with a therapist or a divorce coach is extremely beneficial to this endeavor.

Principle. Having principles is a good trait. Unfortunately, spouses do not always share the same set of principles, or morals, for that matter.  When principles and morals are not more or less aligned, negotiations and settlement become more challenging because the principled person will feel they are compromising their principles by engaging in negotiations that do not meet their standards. This is a tough one, but the fact is the law itself has little place, if any, for addressing this intangible and stellar personal quality. Therefore, standing on principle is likely to be costly and could result in worse results from a judge. Instead, it is helpful to determine one’s desired result and work to negotiate to that point irrespective of whether or not the other person shares the same principles in reaching that result.

Bargain Hard. To negotiate does not mean to give up. It means to take control, face the reality of the facts (good and bad), know your spouse’s needs and interests and then bargain hard. Negotiations are not easy but, in the end, the conclusion is usually much more satisfactory than trial because of the certainty of the agreement and the better assurance of compliance with the terms of agreement.

Timing. The tricky part is that both parties have to be willing to engage in the hard work of negotiations. If one or both are not ready, then the case will languish until parties are ready to negotiate, which sometimes occurs after some pre-trial litigation gives each party a taste of how unsatisfactory it can be to allow a judge to make life-altering decisions.

Waiting is often the hardest part of getting to closure in a divorce.  Working diligently and mindfully with a lawyer on how to get a case and parties prepared for the hard work of negotiation is the key to moving on from what, for many people, is a very unpleasant stage of life.