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Negotiating to Get What You Deserve: Part 1


All the statistics point in the same direction: For many men, divorce is an expensive inconvenience. Despite their complaints, they have enough money left to live much as they always have and, if they choose, marry again and support a new family.

For many women, however, divorce can be an economic disaster: It lowers their standard of living sharply, sometimes to near-poverty level.

These are the stakes as you and your lawyer begin to negotiate the financial terms of your settlement.

No two negotiations are the same. Each is an attempt to reconcile the present and future needs of two people with particular assets and earning abilities.

Each is a struggle to satisfy the legal definition of fairness in the face of powerful emotions – the desire to punish or deprive the need to place blame or relieve guilt.

Each is a contest whose outcome can be influenced by the preparation, ingenuity, determination, sense of timing, and endurance of the participants.

More than three out of every four cases are settled out of court, but in order to get the best possible terms you must convince the other side that you would be willing to go to trial and let a judge decide the issues.

Although negotiations may take an infinite variety of twists and turns, they all start in one of several ways: In a relatively amicable divorce, the two of you may have talked beforehand and worked out the outlines of a possible agreement. After you have presented the terms to your lawyers, they will surely raise a number of questions about contingencies that neither of you has considered. From there, the lawyers will work on remaining differences – in meetings with or without the two of you, sometimes by telephone – until all issues are settled.

Even without rancor, unexpected questions may come up: You agreed to take the house while he keeps your savings, which are of equal value. Fair enough. But transferring the house from joint ownership to you may carry a substantial future tax liability for the increase in value since you about it. Did you take this into account when you agreed to the division?

*Brenner, Lois and Robert Stein. “Negotiating to Get What You Deserve” Getting Your Share: A Woman’s Guide to Successful Divorce Strategies. San Jose: Authors Choice Press, 1989. 80-98. Print.