When you are negotiating a divorce where kids are involved, it can be frustrating, overwhelming, and even scary to know where to start. You obviously want the best possible outcome for your kids as they navigate big emotions and redefine what family means in the face of divorce. And you want to ensure that you will have the resources to provide for their needs and set yourself up for financial success as a single parent. Here are 5 tips for successfully negotiating your divorce.
Negotiating a Divorce: Get a Lawyer
This is the number one, most important thing you can do to protect both your and your children’s interests in the divorce. Many people feel they can handle their own divorce negotiations; they may want to avoid legal fees, they think their relationship is congenial enough to pursue negotiation without lawyers, or they believe DIY documents and online research will provide them with enough legal information to successfully represent themselves in court. But when children are involved, you need to make responsible decisions to ensure their needs are met.
Having a lawyer doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a contentious relationship or that you won’t be able to move forward in a successful co-parenting relationship with your ex. But it does mean that you recognize that divorce is complicated, and that high emotions can spur illogical or unproductive decision-making. Trusting a reputable, experienced family lawyer can help smooth the way through the legal minefield that divorce can create.
And if you are divorcing because you are leaving an abusive relationship, it is that much more important that you take steps to protect yourself and your children from someone who is likely dealing with increased anger, aggression, and a desire to hurt you. Having a lawyer in your corner, someone who will be compassionate with you but relentless in advocating for you in court, could make the difference in your ability to move forward into a new life with your child with the resources you both need to recover physically, emotionally, and financially.
Negotiating a divorce: Put Your Kids First
Demonstrating your intention to put your kids’ needs before your own, will help your negotiation go more smoothly. Prove that what you are requesting will benefit them first and foremost, and handle your divorce proceedings with maturity and without resorting to overly dramatic pleas. Judges are always going to prioritize the needs of the children, and how you conduct yourself will show that you are also putting them first.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t be aggressive in the legal sense, or that you shouldn’t fight for what you believe will set your children up for the best life they can have after your divorce. But above all, remember that you are fighting for the kids and that your behavior can either support or detract the case you are building for the needs of your children.
Negotiating a Divorce: Have a Clear Picture of Your Finances
Knowing the details of your finances and assets prior to negotiating will help you gain clarity when you begin the divorce proceedings. It allows you to take a holistic look at your financial situation and better advocate for what you and your children will need post-divorce.
Having a clear picture also prevents an ex from manipulating the situation or taking advantage of your lack of knowledge around family finances. Consider not just family income, but retirement accounts, mortgage, car payments, debt. Each of these factors can add to the complexity of a negotiation, and your knowledge can help prevent a bitter ex from hiding assets in order to hurt you.
Negotiating a divorce: Know Your Needs vs. Your Wants
Before you enter a divorce negotiation, take time to consider what is going to be best for you and your kids and make a list starting with the most pertinent or necessary needs. Because divorce is such an emotional process, it can be very easy to slip into emotional rather than rational decision making.
Give yourself the space to process the facts and logistics that will allow you and your children to move forward in as healthy and financially stable a way as possible. Categorize your list so that your essential needs come first. Then add in the things you want but are willing to negotiate. This will provide clarity as you meet with your lawyer and begin to negotiate terms with your ex and their legal team.
Negotiating a divorce: Be Aware of the Tactics of Divorce
Don’t go into a divorce thinking that just because you and your ex made your children together that you’ll also be on the same page about what they need and how to care for them once the divorce is finalized. Divorce can get messy, especially if your ex has resentment or anger toward you. They may engage an aggressive lawyer so that they can “play the game” using emotional tactics to get their way. Manipulating someone’s emotions is one of the easiest ways to get them to comply, and what could be more emotional for you than trying to secure the future and wellbeing of your children?
As much as possible, try to take emotion out of the equation when you are negotiating. Rely on the expertise of your lawyer and don’t get drawn into mind games with your ex. Work with your lawyer on a game plan for what to do when your ex tries to use your emotions or other tactics against you.
If you are dealing with a particularly contentious divorce, or if abuse and manipulation were issues in your marriage, then you can use a simple phrase such as “All further communication between us will be handled between our lawyers,” when your ex tries to bait you. If you struggle with getting pulled into the emotional whirlpool, have your lawyer handle all communication with your ex and their legal team. This is often the best way to remove yourself from the tactics they may employ against you in order to get their way during a negotiation. Stay calm and rational and continue to negotiate with your children’s needs in mind.
At Torrone Law, our lawyers will put your family first, provide compassionate counsel, and work to get you the best settlement possible in a negotiation. We’ll fight for you to ensure that you have the resources you need to support your children after your divorce. Schedule your free consultation today.