The Art of Negotiating Your Divorce

Karen BigmanDivorce Process, Divorce Tips

The Art of Negotiating Your Divorce

I recently read How to Split the Difference by Chris Voss. I highly recommend it to those of you who are about to embark on divorce negotiations, particularly in a highly contested divorce. Regardless, his tips and techniques are helpful in all aspects of life (even negotiating with your kids!).

One of the keys to successful negotiations he talks about is empathy. Empathy, the art of stepping in someone else’s shoes and feeling what they are feeling, is a very useful skill. We often say “I know how you feel, you must be so stressed!”, when in actuality, we have no idea how someone else is feeling. Being empathetic gives the other person the space to connect: “It must be really stressful to be going through a divorce, is there anything I can do to help” sounds more empathetic.

When you’re in a highly-contentious divorce, you’re angry, sad, your spouse is behaving in a manner you never imagined, the last thing you may feel like being is empathetic. At the same time, you’re trying to negotiate what you both deem a ‘fair’ settlement – only your fair and your spouse’s fair are different animals. The back and forth, the disagreements, the excruciating discussions all contribute to a very long, very expensive divorce process.

As hard as it may be, empathy may be one advantage you have that will ultimately get you what you want. Imagine approaching your spouse like this:

“You owe me this holiday weekend, my family always had this weekend. You only want it because it means something to me!”


“I know you really would like this holiday weekend and it means a lot to you, since it’s a family tradition, would it be okay if I had this holiday and you got the other one that is equally meaningful?”

You may be right, your spouse may simply be trying to ‘stick it to you.’ However, your ability to reason and empathize may get you what you want. As my dad used to say, “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”, why not give it a try?