When you're preparing for a marital separation or divorce, there is so much on your plate, like figuring out what kind of divorce process you want, when the right time is to meet with a divorce attorney, and what your financial realities are going to look like after your split -- just to name a few.
More often than not people forget one important thing they need to address, namely what your divorce negotiation strategy will be.
You might be thinking, "Negotiation strategy? That sounds so calculating. I don't want to come off like I'm being a vulture." Nothing could be farther from the truth!
Divorce is one big negotiation. A negotiation of time (parenting), money (cash & debts), and assets (tangible and intangible).
In order to negotiate well you've got to figure out quite a few things like: pinpoint your goals and priorities, consider what your soon to be ex might want, what's best for your kids, how to handle emotional triggers, what points you're willing to compromise on, and more.
Now you might be thinking to yourself,
"Doesn't my lawyer do the negotiating and get me what I want?"
You and your legal representative are a T-E-A-M. That's right, a team. Without your active participation in the process you're putting your life in the hands of someone with only partial information to go on, setting them up to start the process blindly, and making it impossible to get the outcome you want out of your divorce.
Your attorney or mediator knows the divorce laws in your state, precedents from previous cases and the legal process, but YOU know the details of your life, what the best case outcome you want is, and what you're willing to let go of.
Communicating this information to your attorney from the jump gives you both a foundation to build your negotiation strategy on. Here's your new mantra:
Early Preparation = Negotiation Success
Making yourself comfortable with the idea of negotiating is an essential part of preparing for divorce, and should go hand in hand with your other divorce prep, financial planning, and pinpointing your goals.
Here are some simple steps to take to ensure you set yourself up to negotiate smartly during divorce and you get the outcome you want:
1. Separate Emotion From Business
The Divorce Planner's mantra is simple, there are two sides of divorce, the emotional and the business. Separate the two A.S.A.P..
Divorce is loaded with a minefield of triggers: fears about financial instability, loss of companionship, single parenthood, the prospect of starting over, and losing your retirement plans. Those things can send even the most calm, cool, and collected person into an emotional downward spiral.
Remember that famous scene in the film A League Of Their Own when Tom Hanks character says:
"Are you crying? Are you CRYING?!? There's no crying in baseball!"
While there can be crying during divorce, it should have no part of the negotiation process. A sure fire way to doom your strategy is to let emotions take over when you're hashing out who-gets-what.
2. Know What You Want & Focus On Your Future
When outlining your journey, take the opportunity to focus on your future to ascertain what your goals and priorities are moving forward. When you have an idea of what those are it's like having a North star guiding you throughout the process. Every choice you make during divorce should draw a straight line right back to these. Having this knowledge is your ultimate secret weapon during a divorce.
A helpful exercise to do is imagining the life you want to lead post-divorce. You're the captain of your ship, and identifying these will serve as your compass. Knowledge of what you're building towards is essential; without it, entering into any negotiations will make the process aimless and unfruitful.
Here's a writing exercise with prompts to help you get the ball rolling:
What I really enjoy in my life is
These are things I wish I did more of
I am happiest when
These are things I don't want in my life moving forward
Want more helpful ways to pinpoint your priorities and goals? Check out The Divorce Planner's Identify Your Divorce Goals & Priorities Worksheet. It walks you through how to figure out what your ideal life would look like after divorce so you can focus on your priorities during divorce. It's included in the digital divorce prep and financial planning bundle and in The Divorce Planner's Ultimate Separation And Divorce Prep Course.
3. Set Reasonable Expectations
One of the biggest mistakes people make during divorce is not having realistic expectations of what an acceptable outcome will be. Too often people want to play a zero sum game with divorce, with one party being the so-called "winner" and the other person being the "loser".
Reality Check: Divorce is about finding an equitable outcome for everyone.
In the eyes of the law, divorce is about coming up with an equitable distribution of assets for BOTH parties. You might be going into this process with the belief that you only want what's fair, but fair and fairness is subjective. The truth is that what feels fair to one person can feel very unfair to another. Equity is the name of the game in divorce.
Anchor yourself throughout your divorce journey by setting reasonable expectations. This means being guided by facts, not wishful thinking or emotional whims. Reflect on the reality of your current financial situation and project how those numbers will change after divorce so you can arrive at a realistic number of what to expect.
The fact is you can't divide what you don't have.
When you prepare early in the process by gathering up all of your essential documents and statements and crunching the numbers of your life you have a baseline of information steeped in fact, not wishful thinking. That sets you up to have realistic expectations of what to ask for and what you can expect to get.
If you're not sure what your financial realities are, this monthly budget calculator will walk you through every possible expense you have and does all the math for you! Use it during your negotiations to plug in proposed numbers to see what your budget will look like after divorce so you are proactive in anticipating changes and plan for them accordingly rather than being caught off guard and finding yourself in a shortfall of income.
Here's a special tip for stay-at-home parents. I'm about to rip a bandaid off right now so prepare yourself...
If you've been the primary parent and took time out of the workforce to raise kids during marriage, or if you cut back on your hours at work to make time for parenting duties, more likely than not you're going to be in a position where you'll have to find a full-time job after your split.
Start preparing now so you are able to find something that will not only pay you what you deserve, but also fits into the work/life balance you want or will need to have after your split. Facing this head on will help you prevent making mistakes during negotiations. This article from Parents Magazine has 15 Side Hustle ideas for parents to earn money from things you might already be doing.
4. The Power of Pause: Think Before Reacting
No matter how prepared you are for a business negotiation, there's a universal truth about the process that can throw even the most steady people off their game, namely having an automatic emotional reaction to what's proposed. It's like having a nerve reflex automatically kick in. You want to immediately respond with an anger, or fire off a fear based message pleading why what's being proposed is "wrong".
The Divorce Planner's coaching philosophy is built on the simple idea that there is an emotional side to divorce and a business side and to separate and address each separately. The entire divorce process is one big minefield of emotional triggers, and allowing yourself to give into those reactions to make business decisions is a sure fire way to shoot yourself in the foot during divorce negotiations.
One of the most effective strategies to subscribe to during divorce negotiations when you're feeling triggered and every cell in your body tells you to react is:
Wait a beat, take a breath, and give yourself time to carefully think through what's been proposed and how a decision on that point will affect you.
Practicing the power of pause allows you to think critically about the decisions that will inevitably shape your future. NEVER feel like you have to make a decision on the spot. Saying "I'm not sure. I need to think about that and get back to you." is a great way to push pause when you're feeling triggered.
5. Find The Right Tools To Help You
The roadmap towards a successful divorce negotiation starts the moment you take charge of your future and prepare.
The Divorce Planner's holistic approach to the divorce prep process is that there is an emotional side to divorce, and a business side, and that both need to be addressed and separated in order to put yourself in the best position to navigate your divorce negotiations and create the life you want after.
We offer actionable tips and resources on the blog, digital prep tools, one-on-one coaching and an online course that are designed to help you prepare for your split and take charge of the divorce process with confidence and clarity. These resources have helped thousands of people and are your navigational aids, guiding you and educating you on effectively preparing for divorce so you get the outcome you want!
6. Don't Self Sabotage
Even in the most amicable of situations divorce sucks. Big feelings getting stirred up during a separation or divorce are inevitable and they will need to be addressed in the appropriate manner. It can feel easier to cover up big uncomfortable feelings with temporary distractions and dopamine inducing actions like overindulging in alcohol, food, weed, or online shopping. I get it, that instant gratification can make you feel really good when you're running away from feeling bad.
If it feels like too much of a good thing, it probably is.
Remember that ignoring hard feelings and temporarily covering them up will more often than not bite you in the ass. That, and you'll get thrown off your course during a time that requires your full attention if you want to work towards achieving your divorce goals.
One way to head this off is to incorporate 'me time' into your daily routine to recharge and reset. Self-care is an essential part of the journey, allowing you to rise refreshed and prepared to tackle the challenges of divorce rather than bury your head in the sand.
Some ways you can build resilience so you take care of yourself during this time are:
Get out into nature
Schedule one activity a week to look forward to
Exercise you mind, body, and spirit
Acknowledge small victories (Even taking time to read this blog is setting you up for a successful split!)
The Divorce Planner is here to help you at every stage of your separation and divorce. Subscribe to our newsletter and get divorce prep tips, tools, live interview with divorce professionals info, digital freebies and more delivered right to your inbox!
Divorce is hard. The Divorce Planner makes preparing for one easy.