Divorce is one of the toughest times anyone has to endure. During divorce negotiations, it’s easy to fall into blame games while holding onto grudges and resentment.
The divorcing couple may spend too much time, money, and effort trying to outdo and hurt each other. In the end, an acrimonious divorce process makes both partners far worse off than if the process had been approached amicably. Skills learned in a negotiation class help prepare couples, lawyers, and mediators for a stress-reduced process avoiding the following common mistakes.
5 Divorce Negotiation Mistakes to Avoid
Going for Equal Distribution Rather than Equitable Distribution
During the course of most divorce negotiations, it is common for each side to want to come out with the largest share of the property, assets, and finances. Deciding who gets what can be a great challenge, especially where the couple had a diverse portfolio and the process is acrimonious.
Consider the case of the Bill and Ashley, a couple in their mid-40s with two teenage children. Ashley had an inheritance from her parents which she had promised to her kids. Bill had a dental practice and owned the building which housed his office. If Ashley’s estate were to be divided into two and Bill’s too, then their kids’ inheritance would be in jeopardy and Bill’s practice would undergo financial difficulties.
Sometimes equal distribution is unfair to both parents and their families. Divorce negotiation leads to a much better, happier, and sustainable outcome when the property is distributed equitably rather than equally.
Not Considering Mediation First
Divorce is understandably a very emotional process, and couples find it challenging to sit down and agree to terms without involving others. Most couples come into divorce negotiations with the mindset that lawyers need to be involved to get the best deal.
While lawyers offer an excellent service and help keep matters legal without overlooking important aspects, they come at an expense. Apart from the heavy financial burden that comes with hiring two sets of lawyers, starting with legal teams may make the process more adversarial than is needed.
Before hiring lawyers, couples could consider mediation. Using the skills taught in negotiation classes in a mediation setting, couples may find it easier to get across their wants while listening to the other partner. A mediator may make it easier for the estranged couple to sit down and have a meaningful conversation. The mediator may offer guidance on how best to negotiate an agreement that suits them both without destroying each other or the kids.
Not Considering the Family’s Financial Situation
Andrew and Nicole’s divorce was amicable, and the two were mature about the whole process. Each wanted to put the kids first, and for this reason, didn’t want to have the children change schools or friends.
However, when the couple put down their monthly budgets for after separation, it meant providing for two households would be a challenge. This meant the two would have to sell their mortgaged suburban house and each live in rented apartments to be able to afford to keep providing for the kids.
If Andrew and Nicole had acted in haste, then one parent would have retained the big house and probably not been able to keep the place going without the financial input of the other. In time, the person retaining the house might have had to sell or go into debt.
Negotiation class teaches that divorce can be acrimonious with lots of feelings for revenge. However, couples should consider the whole family’s financial position, especially where children are involved. You want to be able to keep providing for your kids. You also want your kids to be comfortable when visiting the other parent if there is shared custody.
It doesn’t make sense to leave one parent destitute if both parents are willing to cooperate and co-parent.
Involving Children in Contentious Disputes
Divorce can be a lose-lose situation, especially for the kids. Young kids may not understand why their parents are no longer living together. Even adult kids may find it difficult coping with the stress and pressures of their parents’ divorce.
For this reason, it is usually a huge mistake involving your kids in contentious issues. By making your kids take sides, you may create possible resentment that may develop into hostility or depression.
Not involving kids in contentious disputes doesn’t mean that children should be kept in the dark about their parents’ divorce. Far from it—children should be made aware of impending separation, divorce, and the financial and emotional implications. However, couples should avoid bombarding their kids with the most contentious issues unless a court or mediator requires the kids’ input to break a deadlock.
Treating Children like Commodities Due to Anger
Still, on the topic of kids, it’s unfair for parents to use children for leverage when discussing terms of the divorce. It is relatively common for divorcing parents to use issues surrounding custody, visitation, and spousal support to press for an unfair advantage. Negotiation class teaches that such negative feelings are usually driven by anger and resentment. Using children for leverage may have an impact on the kids’ emotional development.
When negotiating a divorce agreement, it’s best for couples to put their children’s wellbeing above their own deliberately. Any anger or resentment against the ex-spouse should not be expressed in a way that harms the kids’ development.
Matters of custody and visitation should not be negotiated with a view of punishing one parent for past transgressions. Kids should only be kept away if the parent was abusive or caused exposure to risky behavior. Otherwise, the kids will suffer most if denied the chance to bond with either of the parents.
As a marketing advisor, Milena Gallo is passionate about using digital media to build connections, share information, negotiation training and promote businesses she believes in. She holds a degree in business and has many years of digital marketing experience.