More and more family law disputes are settled in some sort of negotiation process whether it’s a 4-way meeting, a mediation or even in a settlement conference with a Judge.


There are two principles of negotiation which are extremely important to a successful outcome.


The first is that as much as possible each of the parties needs to feel that they have been heard by the other party and their point of view is being respected and considered. It can be very difficult for people who are in conflict to convey this to their ex-spouse but if either the lawyer or the client can take the time to repeat what the other side is saying and to acknowledge that their point of view has been heard it will go a long way to helping to reach a settlement.


This respect for the other side’s position also can be extended to acknowledging not only what has been said but to possibly go further and acknowledge that you have an understanding of their concerns, their hopes, their fears and their current frail and emotional circumstances. After separation both spouses have been hurt and they want this to be at least recognized and understood by their former spouse.


The second principle is patience. Negotiating a settlement is a very slow process even if both parties know the likely outcome from the outset. It’s like the feeling you get if you list your house for sale and you get an offer the first day. You are left with a feeling that you should have asked for more even if you have received a fair price. Negotiating a settlement in a divorce is the same. The settlement has to be arrived at after a considerable amount of back and forth which in a typical mediation can take all day if not several days. You can’t simply cut to the chase, it won’t work.


Deborah A. Todd
Deborah A. Todd