I recently heard Chris Voss, author of Never Split the Difference, use the expression “Fair is a four letter word.” How true that is in divorce! Some attorneys say that divorce was a success when both parties are equally unhappy. According to Chris, using the word ‘fair’ leads to overreaction in a negotiation. You’re setting the stage for dissatisfaction. It makes us automatically feel like the other side thinks we’re not being fair and makes us defensive.
What makes your deal fair? What makes your spouse’s deal fair? If you have a realistic view of what to expect, then ‘fair’ is not even on the table. Is something necessarily fair because the law says it is? Does it really make any sense to approach a negotiation from the ‘getting a fair deal’ perspective?
What if you approached your negotiations with a ‘realistic’ approach instead?
How much do you actually need to live?
How much does your spouse need?
What will it take to keep the house? What would happen if you had to move?
What will it cost to maintain two homes now?
The kids are going to have to split their time, how can I make it the least painful for them even if it means making a sacrifice?
In divorce, when emotions are running high and there’s rarely a happy medium, it’s really about how you look at what you’re getting, not what you’re actually getting. If you’re asking for more money than is available to you and your spouse out of anger, or you’re offering more than you can afford out of guilt, the deal you strike will never be satisfactory.
Most highly contested cases that end up in trial are due to one or both of the parties being completely unrealistic. As painful as it may be, clearing the emotions and looking at the facts is the only way to end your divorce negotiations. The one thing you and your spouse both want is for the divorce process to end!