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Tips for Negotiating Your Divorce

If you’re at the point in your divorce where it’s time to make decisions and negotiate a settlement, you’ll need some pointers to help you reach your goals.  Here are some tips for negotiating the best result from your divorce.

Goal setting

Prior to a negotiation meeting, list your goals – a general overall goal, such as “do what’s best for my children,” “make sure I have a place to live,” and “ensure I can retire at a reasonable age,” as well as more specific goals on each issue, like “I want to pay less than $1,000 per month in spousal support” or “I want a 10/4 parenting time schedule.”  Your smaller goals are just guideposts and may move throughout the negotiation. Keep your big picture in mind and be flexible with your smaller, more specific goals.  This way of thinking helps you compromise on non-core issues and hold firm on matters central to your overall, primary goal.

Think long-term to avoid settler’s remorse

To illustrate this tip, let’s say you are a long-term stay-at-home mom and you want primary custody of your children. However, you know your husband won’t agree because he wants to pay as little as possible in child support. You want to propose that you’ll take less in child support if he will agree to your custody proposal. It may be tempting to give in on an issue in order to do what you think is best for your children. Before you give in too quickly, hold out a bit, stand firm, or fight back. Generally, given the circumstances above, you should receive primary custody and child support. Keep in mind that child support is financial support for your children and they need that, too, as much, if not more than time with you. Concede on points that don’t matter to the big picture and dig in on issues that have a big impact on your long-term goals.

Don’t major in the minors

  Let the Hummel collection go.  Let the knickknacks and bric-a-brac go.  If it’s turning into a huge fight and you’re disagreeing on every item, don’t waste your time itemizing your personal property items in your home and assigning each of them a value.  Focus on larger items, and the smaller ones will fall into place.  You don’t want to pay your attorney hundreds of dollars to argue over a five-year-old set of sheets that isn’t worth $5 at a garage sale.

Find common ground

  When you don’t know where to start or are at an impasse, search for some common ground.  For example, let’s say you own a camper.  You’re pretty sure that neither one of you want it.  Bring it up and say “let’s sell it and equally split the proceeds.”  It’s hard to argue with that.  Agreeing on one issue can help build momentum to resolve other issues.


  Keep it simple, stupid.  This one is kind of a reiteration of “Don’t major in the minors.”  Hit the high points of each issue to be negotiated and fill in the details later.  If a solution to an issue is becoming too complicated and involving too much “if then, then that,” it’s time to go back and determine how you can divide the asset or debt in a simpler way. If you feel that there are too many contingencies or loopholes in a settlement, it’s a set-up for problems down the road.

Get your head right

  When negotiating, whether in an attorney’s office, mediator’s office, or on the courthouse steps, you should be in the best head space possible.  That means getting a good night’s rest, eating well before, and dressing appropriately and comfortably for the situation.  Don’t take any medications that alter your mood, which you don’t normally take unless prescribed by your doctor.  Get in some exercise before your negotiation session.  If you can, go for a walk.  To ease any tension that’s building prior to your settlement meeting, watch funny videos before heading in.

Use these tips to help you get in the right frame of mind so you can resolve your divorce and meet your goals in a simple, business-like fashion.

If you have any questions concerning a New Jersey divorce, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at (201) 845-7400 for a free initial consultation.


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