Improve Your Negotiations With The 5 Golden Rules.   LEARN THEM

I’m told there’s almost nothing more personal and emotionally challenging than a divorce. Even divorces without kids, where the spouses have just grown apart but still want a future relationship, can present significant challenges.

So how can parties effectively negotiate here and in the environments where other factors exponentially complicate the dynamic? In last week’s column, I suggested parties should: 1) evaluate and prioritize their goals and fundamental interests, and 2) find a trusted friend, family member or advisor to help.

Parties should also do the following.

1. Use “fair and reasonable” standards and benchmarks, including possible mediation.

Perhaps the classic move addressing emotionally charged negotiations involves finding independent, credible standards and benchmarks that depersonalize the conflict. Standards include: market value, precedent, experts’ opinions, costs, policy, or some combination of them.

Let’s say two spouses can’t agree on the child support to be paid until the kids turn 18. Instead of just going back and forth on what each personally believes should be paid, divorce lawyers will often review statutes and expert-devised court child support guidelines to provide a baseline for what’s “fair” in their client’s circumstances.

Or the parties might jointly hire an independent financial expert to review the amount previously paid to support their children and their activities (powerful precedent as they can presumably agree on that as “reasonable”).

The most impactful use of this move involves hiring an independent, credible, professionally-trained third-party mediator to help manage the negotiation process. It’s no coincidence that mediation is almost certainly used in more divorces than in any other legal negotiation area.

Of course, emotions will still powerfully impact the process. But this move can minimize the negative impact they can bring to the table.

One more thought. For those interested in more emotion-related strategies, Harvard psychologist Daniel Shapiro has written two books on emotions in negotiation, one of which I wrote a column about 18 years ago, and one 2016 book “Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally Charged Conflicts.”

2. Do the offer-concession “dance.”

A divorce lawyer friend once told me about her client suggesting, early on, to just “cut to the chase” and make an offer he considered fair, firm and final. A take-it-or-leave it move. He wanted efficiency and to minimize his legal bill.

My friend strongly advised him against it. She was right, and not because of her financial self-interest. She was right because parties almost always need to FEEL like they got a good deal. This especially applies in divorces involving hurting parties and possible betrayals, but often in others as well.

How do these parties measure how good a deal they received? By evaluating how far and how often they “forced” their counterparts to concede. In other words, parties in most divorces will rarely sign on the dotted line until they have gone back and forth a bit on their critical issues. And sometimes it requires lots of moves!

Bottom line: The offer-concession dance is often disproportionately impactful in divorce negotiations.

Latz’s Lesson: Divorce negotiations are not easy. But using independent, credible standards like mediation plus doing some dancing in the offer-concession stage will lessen the pain and increase your effectiveness..

 * 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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