Tips for Moving Past Negotiation Impasses

No matter how well-intentioned the spouses are, it’s often difficult to successfully negotiate every issue in a divorce proceeding. Whether you are working with your attorneys together, have enlisted the help of a mediator, or your attorneys are handling most of the negotiations, it can be difficult for two people to agree on all aspects of a situation – especially when those two are in the middle of a divorce.

If you find yourself at a stalemate or impasse in the negotiation process, try implementing some of these ideas to find a resolution or way to make you both comfortable moving forward:

  • Save it for last. Unless it’s the last issue left to decide, leave it, and move on to another issue. After successfully negotiating another issue, the parties may be in a better frame of mind to try again.
  • Get up and stretch. Rather than try and push through the process, make sure you take a break when you need it. Unfolding from a seated position and walking around for a few minutes gets the blood plumping to all areas of the body, including the brain.
  • If you and your ex are having trouble with one issue, ask yourself if you are giving it the attention it deserves. It’s one thing to hear what he or she is saying and another to listen. You may not be as far away from each other as you think. Even if not, feeling heard can make a difference.
  • Let your partner and his or her attorney know you are hearing what they are saying by mirroring their words. Re-say what they’ve said to ensure you understand it and that they see you’re listening to them throughout the process. This simple act can make things go smoother and prevent possible impasses later.
  • Swap perspectives. Consider what this situation looks like from your partner’s perspective. It may not make you agree with him or her, but if you understand it better, it may make it easier to negotiate.
  • Use positive reinforcement. Practice being positive throughout the process – even when you are at an impasse. Validate what you’ve accomplished so far – both at this meeting and in your lives together.
  • Visualize the future. Choose a possible negotiated scenario and try to visualize what that scenario will look like a year from now, five years from now, and 10 years from now. Imagining tomorrow can offer perspective in the moment.
  • Assign a timeline. If it feels like you will never come to an agreement on one point, consider negotiating it on a timeline. Sometimes people will agree to something if they know it’s temporary. Formalize a plan to revisit the issue in six months or a year.
  • Generalize the situation. You both may be emotionally raw and feel like the world is falling apart, but it may help to remember this situation has happened to many before you, and, one way or another, you’ll need to resolve this issue. Try and see the situation as an outsider and consider how to move from there.
  • Clarify the alternative. Ask yourself – and perhaps your ex-partner – what happens if we can’t work this particular issue out? What would happen if a judge were decide the case and it was out of your hands? Discuss the delays and expenses of going that route. Understanding the consequences of not reaching a settlement can help both parties with their perspectives.

Negotiations during divorce proceedings are challenging but going into them with the right attitude can ensure they are more productive. It may also prevent lengthy arguments and a judge making decisions for you rather than yourselves.