How to Slay Your Divorce Negotiations Like a Seasoned Pro

I'll admit it. I don't have a magic wand. I wish I did! But what I do have is 16 years of experience helping people navigate divorce with integrity. I've settled the toughest issues that come up in divorce and acquired some proven techniques along the way. And what you have on your side, more than any lawyer or mediator, is a deep understanding of your spouse. You know exactly what you can say or do to emotionally trigger them. More importantly, you know how to communicate in a way that your ex feels seen and heard.

Why is this important? Because it doesn't matter how much law you have on your side; it won't get you anywhere in negotiations if your ex feels panicked, threatened, or angry.

Communication is key

The key to effective divorce negotiations is communication. Easier said than done, sure. But it's absolutely doable if you keep your eyes on the prize. I know this because I see it every day.

Use the examples below to help make your divorce conversations a lot more productive, moving you closer to resolution rather than litigation.

Related: How to Keep Your Divorce Conversations Productive


Handle these conversations with ease 

Example 1: The refuser

They say: I'm not leaving the house. Ever. I want and deserve it. It's the least you can give me.

You want to say: Well, unless you remarry a millionaire, I don't see how you can afford to buy me out.

Actual response: I understand how much that house means to you. Why don't you consult with an experienced lawyer to get a sense of what your options are?

Comment: If you know your legal position is solid, why not encourage your ex to seek the advice of a legal coach? Then, it's not you who has to be the one to give your spouse the bad news. Perhaps after seeking counsel, they will adopt a more realistic position.

Example 2: The delayer

They say: Let's just handle this later. Every time we talk about our divorce, it just leads to a fight.

You want to say: You wanted the divorce and yet I have to make it happen. Typical.

Actual response: I don't want to talk about it, either. But if you have any love for me left, you'd respect that I can't handle the limbo we're living in. We don't need to solve everything today, but we at least need a plan to move forward.

Comment: Making it about you and your needs is a lot more effective than getting angry with your ex. It's also a lot harder to argue with. Use this conversation as a way to set some ground rules for your divorce and get a schedule in place.

Example 3: The bully

They say: Whatever. I'll just see you in court, then.

You want to say: Seriously? I can't believe I married someone so impulsive and immature.

Actual response: I've been doing some research. and I've learned that the average cost of divorce is over $20,000 per person. I don't have that kind of money, so guess who is going to pay? Us. If that's the route you want to go, we will both be left with nothing, but our lawyers will be sitting pretty.

Comment: Call them out. What type of divorce do you really want? One where you fight so hard, you lose all your money but still need to have dinner together at your daughter's graduation? This could be a really good time to put some divorce ground rules in place.

Example 4: The refuser, part 2

They say: I won't take anything less than 50/50 with my kids.

You want to say: I see. You finally take an interest in the kids now that child support is at issue.

Actual response: I understand joint custody is important to you, so let's put that in the agreement. As far as the actual schedule, can we agree to keep something similar to what we have now since it's working for our kids?

Comment: Whether they are asserting their parental rights because they are afraid to lose their kids or because they want to make themselves feel better (e.g., like they are a better, more involved, parent than they actually are), it doesn't matter. Almost every state encourages some type of "joint" parenting, so let's call it that. "We are both going to be actively involved parents and spend time with our kids." Then, when you get to the more nuanced terms of an actual parenting schedule, make sure you get what you and the kids need.

Example 5: The clueless ex

They say: There's no way you are getting a piece of my pension. I've worked hard for this.

You want to say: Well, you clearly haven't read Marital Property 101.

Actual response: It sounds like your pension means a lot to you. Let's agree to use a joint actuary to value the pension and marital interest. Then we can determine if we have enough (other) assets to assign me in order to offset my interest in your retirement benefits.

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Founder, CEO & Certified Family Law Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Insights, Legal Insights
After over a decade of experience as a Certified Family Law Specialist, Mediator and law firm owner, Erin was fed up with the inefficient and adversarial “divorce corp” industry and set out to transform how consumers navigate divorce - starting with the legal process. By automating the court bureaucracy and integrating expert support along the way, Hello Divorce levels the playing field between spouses so that they can sort things out fairly and avoid missteps. Her access to justice work has been recognized by the legal industry and beyond, with awards and recognition from the likes of Women Founders Network, TechCrunch, Vice, Forbes, American Bar Association and the Pro Bono Leadership award from Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Erin lives in California with her husband and two children, and is famously terrible at board games.