Tips for Negotiating Your Own Divorce Settlement
A pro se divorce is a divorce in which one or both spouses represent themselves. Divorce lawyers generally recommend a collaborative divorce as an alternative, but if you do represent yourself, there are certain strategies you can employ to help ensure a successful divorce settlement.
Research Your Legal Rights and Responsibilities
You and your spouse have certain legal responsibilities that cannot be negotiated away. An attempt to do so will result in refusal of the proposed divorce settlement agreement by the judge. It is also essential that you understand your legal rights because it is possible for you to negotiate them away.
Check Your Emotions
No matter how amicable, a divorce will be an emotional affair. A potential benefit to retaining the services of a divorcee lawyer is that it helps to eliminate the excess emotions. However, emotions are not necessarily bad. They are only problematic when you let them get in the way. Think positive. Get ample rest. Exercise and eat well, and if you ever feel overwhelmed, take a break from the negotiation in order to reboot.
Set Mutual Ground Rules
Negotiation should start with agreeing on ground rules. Determine when, where and how you will negotiate. Agree on a neutral site. Establish a timeline and a deadline.
In order for a divorce to be amicable, it is important to be flexible and to work to ensure that any agreement benefits both you and your spouse. Keep an open mind. Brainstorm alternatives when there seems there are none, and be willing to concede at times. You both will have to.
Negotiate Based on Interests
A common mistake when negotiating a divorce with a spouse is bargaining from a position rather than what your interests are. If you focus on what is important to you rather than what you have a right to, you may relinquish your position at times, but you will likely gain more ground and at a faster pace.
Identify Needs and Wants for Both Spouses
Not only is it useful to negotiate based on your interests but the interests of your spouse. Wants are important, but needs are integral. If your spouse has a need and you seek to negotiate a settlement that does not meet that need, you likely will not be successful, and you will at the very least fail your spouse.
Know Your Finances
Another common mistake is not having a full appreciation of your finances, and it is not uncommon in marriages for one spouse to have much greater awareness of the money situation than the other. This lack of knowledge puts you at a disadvantage and could lead to a wide range of bad decisions.
Recognize Your Best and Worst Alternatives
BATNA and WATNA are negotiating concepts that apply to divorce settlements, and they are acronyms for best and worst alternative to a negotiated agreement. What if the negotiation fails? What are the worst things that could happen? The answer to that question is often enough motivation to help reach a compromise.
Determine Your Bottom Line
Determine the aspects of any agreement that you simply cannot live without. Explain those to your spouse and have him or her do the same. Make sure that your bottom line is realistic, and be willing to walk away if your spouse is not willing to reach a bottom line that is fair and practical.
Always Have a Plan
Have a plan in place even before you agree on the ground rules. Be open to the idea that your plan will change. Determine your bottom line, but try to recognize your spouse’s bottom line and all the areas in which you can be flexible. Also, consider contingencies for those times when things do not go as expected.
Protect Your Interests and Legal Rights
If you are considering divorce or if your spouse has already filed, the Law Office of Joanne E. Kleiner is here to help. Schedule a consultation with a divorce lawyer through which we can assist you in determining the best path for you and your family. To do so, you can contact us online, or call our Jenkintown office at 215-886-1266.