When spouses separate emotions are high and people who are normally quite reasonable can get caught up in the battle and become unreasonable.

These days we have several labels for people who have challenging personalities ranging from passive aggressive to narcissistic. Many spouses who are going through a difficult separation have researched these characterizations and recognize them in their former spouse and can provide a label which they believe is most appropriate.

Regardless of the label, however, lawyers must persevere and try to negotiate fair settlements.

Some helpful things for clients and their lawyers to remember are:

• It’s extremely important to listen and then to acknowledge that the other person has been heard. This can often be the key to allow that person to move on to resolve an issue.

• Try to understand the fear or concern that’s behind a request or demand. What is the person afraid may happen if they accept a particular deal. Once you understand their fears, there is often a way to address them.

• Try to keep the negotiations focused on the future rather than rehashing the past. What needs to be in place to move forward?

• Give people suggestions or tools that allow them to resolve their own dispute whenever possible instead of providing solutions.

• Emphasize both spouses’ strengths and try to focus on them instead of their weaknesses.

If you’re able to remember these guidelines, you will probably be able to reach a settlement regardless of high conflict personalities.

Deborah Todd Law
Deborah A. Todd