I’ll admit it. I don’t have a magic wand. I wish I did! But what I do have is 15 years of experience helping people navigate out of their marriage in 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 and more importantly, how to communicate in a way that your ex feels seen and/or 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. The key to effective divorce negotiations is communication. I know, easier said than done. 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 turn your divorce conversations into something that is a lot more productive and moves you closer to resolution instead of litigation.
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Example 1: Talk to a lawyer (legal coach)
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, s/he’ll will return with 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 we fight so hard we lose all our money but still need to have dinner together at our daughter’s graduation? Oh hell no. This could be a really good time to try and get some divorce ground rules in place.
Example 4: Coparenting negotiations
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’ parentage so let’s call it that. “We are both going to be actively involved parents and spend time with our kids.” Then, when it gets to the more nuanced terms of the actual parenting schedule, make sure you get the terms that 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 bozo.
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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