Prof Mnookin at the CMR No.103F“I am so glad we came in together, this has been so helpful.” This is a comment I hear so often from couples after they come in to meet with me together to talk about their divorce process options. Not all attorneys offer the opportunity to come in together but it is becoming a more frequent offering by attorneys who practice Collaborative divorce. Who each of you meet with before you make any decision about how to move forward when there is a decision to divorce, can make all the difference in how things play out during and after a divorce for you, your spouse and children. Imagine, if one person meets with an attorney that focuses on gathering information (how much your spouse earns, nature and amount of assets, whether you want custody of the children, etc.) and assessing the outcome before you have decided how you will more forward with process (Mediation, traditional court process, Collaborative, etc.). It sets the tone for everything that follows, often times setting up a win-lose dynamic. But is that what you want? Most people want as healthy and positive co-parenting relationship going forward that they can have and want to achieve a win-win outcome. On the other hand, if a couple meets together with an attorney to learn about process options before getting into the details of the assets, cash flow/support, etc., you are focusing on the tone and manner in which you move forward, rather than the positions that can be formulated. Couples can then make a mutually informed decision about how to move forward. And the hidden benefit is that, if that attorney is hired by one of you, you already know the philosophy of the other key person in the negotiation; your spouses attorney. Imagine what a difference that can make in creating a more positive divorce experience. It can be an invaluable decision.
Compromise is a necessary part of life. Differences inevitably arise in our personal and work lives. Resolution of these differences generally takes place through negotiation. The goal of negotiation is to reach an understanding, which means compromise. calvin and hobbes cartoon Is Calvin right? How would you describe a good compromise? Does it leave everybody mad? Is a compromise that leaves anybody mad really a good one? I don’t thinks so. Generally speaking, there are two recognized methods of negotiation:
  • Distributive bargaining, also known as “win-lose,” “zero-sum,” and “divide-the-pie” negotiation, assumes that resources are fixed and that future relationship between the parties is unimportant. Everyday examples include buying a house or car.
  • Integrative bargaining, also known as “win-win,” “interest-based,” and “expand-the-pie” negotiation, can lead to better outcomes when issues are complex and the parties value their future relationship.
Divorce typically involves multiple, complex, ongoing issues, including parenting, property and cash flow. Divorcing couples, especially those with children, are interested not only in a fair settlement, but also in having a comfortable post-divorce relationship. They want to be able to co-parent their children effectively. Most want to put family members and friends at ease without having to take sides.  They also want to be able to participate in graduations, weddings, holiday gatherings and other social events without the angst that they have seen their divorced friends and family members experience. Traditional divorce processes encourage the parties to take positions on various issues, exchange settlement proposals, and, ultimately, either make compromises or go to trial. Compromises are made and one or both parties are mad. The Collaborative law process, however, uses interest-based negotiation techniques to help them to achieve these interests. Use of integrative bargaining encourages them to express their goals, which more often than not are shared goals. Once the relevant information has been gathered, the parties have the often-difficult conversations about their fears and hopes. They are encouraged to generate and evaluate potential settlement options. Agreeing to a plan for the future requires compromise by each party. But because the compromises follow open, cooperative discussion and are made for the benefit of the family as a whole, they can leave everybody hopeful about the future … not mad.