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Divorce negotiation and avoiding underhandedness!

 September 2019 |  Martin Fuller

When any relationship ends, we all hope to remain friendly and amicable but due to the emotions surrounding the issue of rejection this is often hard for one party, if not both.

So when it comes to negotiation, it is extremely likely that one party or other will get the impression that the other is being underhanded. That may not be true, but the impression is real to the person holding that opinion and this perception has to be managed appropriately.

When you feel someone you are negotiating with is being underhanded or using chicanery, you have a few options. You can; walk away and litigate, ignore it, respond in kind, question the tactic, or seek the help of a professional negotiator.

Walking away and passing the problem to a third party Judge or negotiator is always an option to be considered when someone with emotional connection to you is behaving in an underhanded way. They will generally put you in a position where you agree something that is not quite right for you because you want to avoid acrimony. Having agreed something to avoid acrimony you then get caught and cannot withdraw because of your need to remain consistent. In relationship negotiation it is often said “I want this to be amicable” but if you don’t agree to this or that then we will fall out. If the options below are not helpful, you should walk away and negotiate with the help of a professional negotiator/family legal.

Ignore the behaviour - and hope the problem goes away! It rarely does. Instead what, can happen is that you become angry and upset that you are being manipulated and allowing this to happen, which will affect your judgement and ability to negotiate effectively. Additionally, you may find yourself being held to the agreement by your inaction.

Responding in kind - will only increase the acrimony and will often end up in a duelling contest over issues that have nothing to do with the subject matter of the negotiation, with one of you eventually walking away (see above) and litigating which is time consuming and expensive financially and emotionally.

Question the tactic - this involves you letting the other party know that you are unhappy with the tactic they are using by asking, for example “is it helpful to threaten to stop the children seeing me if I don’t” or “why do you think the children’s needs should be considered at this point”. By identifying the tactic you can often bring the behaviour to the table and agree, for example that the children will not be mentioned in all future negotiations regarding the family finances. This helps you to negotiate the rules for the negotiation.

If you decide to question the conduct, make sure you do not attack the person. If the other party feels attacked, they will very often respond in kind (see above), whereas if you look at the conduct itself the issue can be neutralised. Focus on interests, not positions. What are our joint interests in this matter? What if I use the same tactic - is that in our joint interests? Can we look at agreeing our joint interests first, and then see how we can negotiate in light of our agreed joint interests? Use objective criteria to challenge the tactic “I would quite like the house at that price” which would test the rule of reciprocity.

The most important thing to remember is to separate the conduct from the person. Wrongdoers never blame themselves. They always blame other people and in relationship breakdown that is likely to be you. We are all similar. So although, you may wish to blame and criticise your ex for the unfortunate situation you find yourself in, if you do voice that feeling it is likely your ex will justify him or herself and condemn you in return.  

Seek help from a professional negotiator - who can help you prepare for the negotiation you are looking to undertake and advise you on an outcome that  is fair and reasonable. Most people behave in a consistent manner (see earlier blog “Start with the end in mind to avoid being inconsistent”) so it is not difficult for a professional negotiator to anticipate the responses and tactics your ex might adopt. This objective help can support you in the negotiations and as the help is private no one is any the wiser.

Fullers offer negotiation and conflict management sessions which come with a money back guarantee. By attending our 2 hour meeting, we undertake a full assessment of your situation and offer advice on your likely outcome from a court, help you present your desired outcome and prepare you for any responses to your proposals. We are confident that this meeting is worth your investment. Accordingly, for your peace of mind, we offer a ‘no questions asked’ money back guarantee subject to terms and conditions.

If you would like to find out more about how Fullers can help please contact reception on 01234 343134 or email us at ​​​​​​enquiries@fullersfamilylaw.com


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