Improve Your Negotiations With The 5 Golden Rules.   LEARN THEM

I’m often asked to identify my most challenging negotiation, and my answer for the last 21 years has always been the same – with my wife! The second most challenging one? With my kids.

Most family negotiations have all the elements of extremely tough negotiations. High emotions. Significant drama. Big stakes. Love. Anger. Financial stress. Constant and unavoidable contact. Tons of issues. Zero-sum decisions. The list goes on.

Now add to this volatile mix betrayal, lies, lost trust, revenge, deep hurt, guilt, miscommunication, financial insecurity, cheating, unrepresented parties (kids), hate, a win-lose “I want a pound of flesh” mindset, gender power dynamics, possible physical violence, intimidation, and a future relationship and contact despite noone wanting either.

Some divorce negotiations involve all this. So how can divorcing parties most effectively engage in perhaps their life’s most challenging negotiation?

Focus on these four core elements (two this week and two next).

1. Evaluate and prioritize your true goals and fundamental interests.

Years ago, a friend – a successful middle-aged corporate lawyer – was going through a divorce with her husband. They had no kids, and she was the major breadwinner. She had moved out of their house and initiated the divorce.

In the midst of it, she told me she just wanted to move on and didn’t really care much about what she would owe him financially.

Her main objective was emotional closure. She accomplished it. Of course, she left some money on the table. But it wasn’t a core interest of hers. She could make more and the amounts at issue wouldn’t significantly impact her lifestyle or retirement.

Other divorcing parties obviously have different financial and non-financial goals and interests. These might include short- and long-term financial security, where and how to live, levels of involvement in kids’ lives, kids’ interests, inherited items, emotional and psychological factors, and maybe even physical safety, etc.

The critical strategy? Evaluate and prioritize your true goals and fundamental interests.

Then write them down and review them when the negotiation becomes especially challenging. Ensure your objectives drive your strategy.

Also step into your soon-to-be ex’s shoes and identify their goals and interests and explore your possible mutual interests (these often revolve around the kids).

2. Don’t do this alone.

My wife, a lawyer and trained divorce mediator, has helped several of her friends with their divorces on a volunteer basis. She provides excellent and practical advice (but not legal advice as her friends typically also have divorce lawyers).

Everyone going through a divorce, no matter how amicable, should seek out a trusted friend, family member, or colleague (or several) to help them. Friends and colleagues bring very different, valuable and often more objective perspectives to the table.

But pick them well. You don’t want someone to just agree and support you on everything.

Good and bad divorce lawyers are also out there. So do your research, talk with references, and check their reputation, experience, and negotiation expertise.

I remember hearing about a really bad lawyer who missed a provision in the divorce agreement that made the ex-husband’s life difficult for years. The ex-husband had no idea of its possible impact. His lawyer should have known, told him, and negotiated a better deal.

Latz’s Lesson: Divorce negotiations may be the most challenging of all. So, evaluate and prioritize your goals and interests, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

 * Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation, a national negotiation training and consulting company that helps individuals and organizations achieve better results with best practices based on the experts’ research. He can be reached at 480.951.3222 or

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