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DIY Divorce Guide

Negotiating Your Divorce | Having an Uncontested Divorce

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Upon deciding to divorce, sooner or later spouses should come to an agreement and file an uncontested divorce if at all possible. No matter what route to divorce the parties go – do it yourself, mediated, collaborative divorce, lawyer negotiated or litigated —they resolve issues that can be very combustible and painful. Only about 5 percent of divorces end up in front of a judge. Some 95 percent of couples either work it out themselves, or use mediation or collaborative divorce techniques to minimize damage and the financial costs.

Focusing on your negotiation skills can help in a more amicable divorce settlement. Behavior and actions in three stages of the negotiation -- before, during, and after negotiations -- can have a significant influence on the outcome and result in saving time and money.

Divorcing spouses should understand and accept that the marriage is over when they attempt to negotiate the divorce settlement. When one spouse is determined to divorce, the other can make it take longer, and make it cost more, and make it nastier, but he or she cannot stop it.

Cooling Period

Negotiations work best when both spouses have the same emotional temperature; that is, both realize that the marriage is over. A spouse who wants to remain in a failed marriage even after it becomes untenable usually suffers from what some lawyers call "spouse blindness".

Getting over spouse blindness requires time to see the issues clearly and deal with the pain. Only then will it be possible to develop a balanced settlement agreement. Spouses must be prepared to set compassionate limits for a reasonable transition period. Forcing negotiations is rarely a good thing.

Negotiate Your Divorce

Before You Start the Negotiation Process

Each spouse should know what is really important and be prepared to compromise in order to get something he or she really wants. Knowing what is important helps people to think strategically. A spouse should prepare a list of items he or she can compromise about. The list may come quickly, but should be carefully crafted as to not leave anything unaddressed.

Where to Start the Negotiation Process

When the time is right, the spouses want to talk about which divorce route to use. Sometime when spouses hash out the options, they come to mutually realize that the best course is an uncontested action. Sometimes with a little discussion, the couple realizes they can come to agreement on all the terms and conditions of the breakup, and they realize they can file their own divorce without a lawyer.

Terms and Conditions of Negotiating Your Divorce

Divorce negotiations end a marriage legally, and they should have the character of a business meeting. The parties must speak one at a time. Partners should speak without interruption. They should not become defensive. The parties should genuinely pay attention to the other side’s arguments and concerns. When the other side is finished, it is a good idea to restate what’s been said to make sure every one agrees about what was said.

Both spouses should realize that neither spouse gets everything he or she wants. As such, both must be open to compromise. In addition, the spouses should brainstorm together, which means looking for and finding possibilities and agree to calmly evaluate them. Then choose a solution that both of you can feel comfortable with.

 The sooner a person learns to put himself or herself in a partner’s shoes and ask, "What would I do if I were you?" the sooner both can reach a mutually acceptable separation agreement.

Meeting to Negotiate

Meeting in a place free of memories and emotions – neutral ground -- is common sense and a good idea. A quiet place – for example, an out of the way corner of the public library – is a place where the spouses can negotiate with some privacy.

The meeting should have structure, which means a written agenda with a time limit for each item. When the spouses agree on an item, they should document it and move on; when they cannot reach agreement, and the time limit has passed, they should move on and come back later. It is very normal for couples to require more than one meting to come to an agreement. A party should keep to the ground rules even if one spouse does not. If discussions drift to where no one seems to be getting anywhere, or if one party ignores the ground rules or becomes angry, the negotiations should stop, and the parties return to the issue later. If things are really getting out of hand, the meeting should end. A meeting can always be rescheduled.

After the meeting, it is a good idea to review the agreement and re-visit it a day or two later. This should be done before anything proceeds in regards to putting the divorce paperwork together.

Being Fair and Reasonable is Key!

Everything is negotiable and anything can be on the table during negotiations, so divorcing spouses should be prepared for promises made and deals closed.

The bargaining process requires setting three different basic values: the least a party will give or give up; the most a party to give or give up; and the bottom line of agreement.

Divorcing couples often tend to remember what they want, which are the assets, and frequently forget about what they don't want, which are the liabilities.

Successful negotiation begins with clear communication. To do this each spouse should remain calm and be willing to listen before talking. If each spouse can follow this concept, then each will be more willing to cooperate with one another to reach a settlement.

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