How to Negotiate a Divorce Settlement with Your Spouse

Ask for more than you want. 

This always give you some room to compromise by giving up a few things, and end up with close to what you really want.  Decide what you really want, would like to have, and don’t care much about.  Also try to figure out which items your spouse really wants, would like to have, and doesn’t care much about.  At the beginning you will say that you want certain things.  Your list will include: (a) Everything you really want, (b) almost everything you’d like to have, (c) some of the things you don’t care about, and (d) some of the things you think your spouse really wants or would like to have.  Once you find out what is on your spouse’s list, you begin trading items.  Generally, you try to give your spouse things that he really wants and that you don’t’ care about, in return for your spouse giving you the items you really care about and would like to have.

Generally, child custody tends to be something that cannot be negotiated.  It is more often used as a threat by one of the parties in order to get something else, such as more of the property, or lower child support.  If the real issue is one of these other matters, don’t be concerned by a threat of a custody fight.  In these cases, the other party probably does not really want custody, and won’t fight for it. If the real issue is custody, you won’t be able to negotiate for it and will end up letting the judge decide anyway.

If you will be receiving child support, then you should first work out what you think the judge will order based upon the child support guidelines.  Then you should ask for more, and negotiate down to what the guidelines call for.  If your spouse won’t settle for something very close to the guidelines, give up trying to work it out and let the judge decide.

Let your spouse start the bidding. 

The first person to mention a dollar figure loses.  Whether it’s a child support figure or the value of a piece of property, try to get your spouse to name the amount her or she thinks it should be first.  If your spouse starts with a figure close to what you had in mind, it will be much easier to get to your figure.  If your spouse begins with a figure far from yours, you know how far in the other direction to begin your bid.

Give your spouse time to think and worry. 

Your spouse is probably just as afraid as you about the possibility of losing to the judge’s decision and would like to settle.  Don’t be afraid to state your “final offer,” then walk away.  Give your spouse a day or two to think it over.  Maybe he or she will call back and make a better offer.  If not, you can always “reconsider” and make a different offer in a few days, but don’t be too willing to do this or your spouse may think you will give in even more.

Know your bottom line. 

Before you begin negotiating you should try to set a point that you will not go beyond.  If you have decided that there are four items of property that you absolutely must have, and your spouse is only willing to agree to let you have three, it’s time to end the bargaining session and go home

Know the law.   The judge will roughly divide your property in equals shares and the judge will follow the child support guidelines.   This awareness should give you an approximate idea of how things will turn out if the judge is asked to decide these issues, which should help you in establishing your bottom line.


Photo Credit:  changeorder on Visual Hunt

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