How to Negotiate in a Collaborative Law Case

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For people starting out in Collaborative cases, their focus is usually on something like gathering information, wondering what to expect or worrying about whether their own needs can be met.  Something that isn’t considered too often is now to prepare to negotiate in a Collaborative divorce case context.  Here are some suggestions to help address that oversight.1.  Learn from the mental health professional (MHP).  You may have some solo time with the MHP and there will certainly be a number of occasions when you are in joint meetings with her or him.  The MHP is skilled in helping people learn to communicate.  Choosing your words carefully, thinking before you speak and learning to listen will all be things you will learn or be reminded of.

2.  Identify goals, needs and interests.  You will be encouraged to focus on the future, not the past, and to work on the important issues.  At the very beginning, you will be required to come up with a list of items that are important to you. These should be discussed with your attorney and then will be discussed at the first or second joint meeting.

3.  Pay attention and respect your spouse’s needs.  This is sometimes difficult because spouses often disagree about what’s important.  Still, listening to your spouse’s positions and considering them can lead to better, more amicable solutions for both of you.

4.  Prepare before joint meetings.  Review and discuss the agenda items and your ideas with your attorney before each joint meeting.  Get advice from your attorney.  Gather any needed information before the meeting and share it with the professionals and attorneys.  Think about what you want to accomplish and consider how your spouse may respond.  Talk it all over with your attorney prior to the joint meeting.

5.  Stay within the lines.  Please don’t try to save time and money by negotiating with your spouse one-on-one outside the joint meetings.  That almost always causes problems.  Remember, if you were able to sit down  and have rational discussions, you probably wouldn’t be getting a divorce.

Bonus Tips:

  • Warn your attorney if you expect problems with any topics or information.  There may be some hot buttons for you or your spouse that need special treatment.
  • Ask for a short time out if a surprise or problem comes up in a meeting.  We don’t like surprises and don’t want either party feeling uncomfortable.
  • Listen before talking or acting.  That’s basic!