5 Tips for Successful Dispute Resolution During Divorce

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” ~Winston Churchill

It’s easy to instinctively shy away from conflict and with good reason – given the choice, most people would rather resolve disputes in a healthy, productive way. The question is when you are dealing with the stress of divorce, how is that even possible? If the wisdom of Churchill didn’t move you, consider the following tips to move to resolution.

Start by getting “in sync”.

This may sound impossible, but the more you can connect with the person with whom you are in conflict, the easier things will be. This does not mean that you must agree with them. It just means that you put yourself in their shoes for a moment by trying to meet them where they are and understand why they are taking a certain position. If you can only focus on your position and desired outcome, you will end up talking past one another instead of truly hearing what the other person is saying or needing.

For example, Husband wants the house, but Wife prefers to sell it and split the proceeds. The divorce proceeding has been delayed by the parties’ dispute. If Wife only focuses on “how selfish Husband is being by holding the process up,” the parties are likely to end up in Court. If Wife instead listens to Husband and appreciates the reasons why he wants the house, (for example, he built the house with his father or he’s the one who always loved the neighborhood and would otherwise be priced out from buying a new home there due to a competitive housing market), it may foster some compassion and allow her to reconsider accepting other marital assets to offset Husband’s award of the house.

Stay focused on the big picture.

It’s easy to get derailed by the little things in a negotiation and lose sight of the big picture. This means that you need to have a clear sense of what you want out of the negotiation before you start; if you’re not solid on that, take a step back, figure out what you actually want, then come back to the negotiation.

We see clients spend an inordinate amount of resources (time, money, and energy) fighting over minor disputes. Those disputes sometimes become more about not letting the other spouse “win” as opposed to getting something that one truly cares about. Try to stay focused on the big picture and pick your battles.

If the dispute involves your children, ask yourself how your desired outcome would impact them. Is your spouse truly a bad parent or are you just hurt or angry and that’s why you are trying to limit their time with the kids? Is that really in your children’s best interest at the end of the day?

Don’t shy away from your emotions.

People have a sense that they must be cool, calm, and logical at all times throughout a dispute resolution. However, it’s natural to experience strong emotions while going through the divorce process and you shouldn’t try to ignore your feelings. Instead, make sure you are receiving the kind of support you need to process your emotions and reactions in a healthy and reasonable way so you can take care of yourself (and kids, if you have them) so you show up as the person you want to be in the negotiations. Allow yourself to experience and process your feelings, but don’t let them control your actions or interfere with an equitable resolution.

Remember that you’re in this together.

As awful as it might feel, you and your spouse are both dependent on each other in this situation. Each one of you needs the other to say yes to something and be open to compromise to resolve the dispute. Try to work from that perspective – that you are both trying to reach a common goal – rather than an adversarial perspective, in which you see the other person as the enemy.

Don’t go it alone.

While you might not need to call in help for the smaller issues, you will likely need support for bigger issues. There are trained professionals who are experienced in bringing a collaborative, positive approach to conflict resolution, so don’t feel like you have to do this on your own.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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