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Achieving an advantageous divorce settlement rarely happens in a courtroom. When both parties sit down together with their attorneys and work out a settlement together, both parties are more likely to be satisfied with the outcome. However, simply sitting down without a plan in place and saying what you want and what you won't do is not the way to achieve your goals. To help you set yourself up for success, we're sharing divorce negotiation tactics that our divorce attorneys in Raleigh use to help our clients.
Take Stock of Your Assets and Liabilities
It's very simple to focus on what you and your spouse have and what you want in your settlement - the house, cars, savings accounts - those all seem up for grabs. Rarely are finances and belongings so straightforward though. Instead, start by taking stock of all your marital assets and liabilities, this includes:
- Credit card debts
- 401(k) and retirement plans
- Investment portfolios
- Bank accounts
- Health insurance policies
- Household goods and furnishings
Having all the information and documentation to back it up will allow you to determine what is best for your outcome. For example, while you may want to ask for the house, consider if you can afford the mortgage or the upkeep on the house, or, if you both have large debts, if it may be better to sell off assets to pay debts so you can both move forward. Knowing what you have can direct you to knowing where you want to be.
Understand the Law
Before you set your goals, it's important to know what the law does and does not allow. In North Carolina, property division is determined by equitable distribution. This does not mean equal, as in 50-50 split, it refers to having property divided fairly and taking into account factors including income, property, and liabilities of each spouse at the time of divorce, earning and income expectations and potential, custody of children, spouse's health, and the length of the marriage. While you don't have to follow equitable distribution during your own negotiation, it's a good idea to keep it in mind when determining what you want in your settlement and what you are likely to achieve.
You'll also want to work with your attorney to understand the law as it relates to child custody and child support. Most states, including North Carolina, have minimum custody and child support guidelines in place and knowing these allows you to understand how you can set your goals.
Understand Your Goals for Your Divorce Settlement
It can be very easy to get caught up in specific wants from your settlement, or even to stop your spouse from "winning." Instead of taking a short-sighted approach, you'll want to consider your long-term goals for how you want your life to be after your divorce, taking care to prioritize your financial future, family's future, and setting yourself up for a better life moving forward.
Consider what you want your post-divorce life to look like. If you want a clean slate and a fresh start, you may consider discussing liquidating assets, paying off debt, and splitting the leftover money equitably while protecting your investments and retirement funds. On the other hand, if your goal is to have primary custody of the children and maintain a familiar, secure setting, you may want to position your goals to support this outcome such as buying out your spouse for the house.
A divorce attorney can discuss your goals with you and determine what you need from your settlement to achieve them. This can provide you with effective negotiation tactics of knowing what to fight for and what to let go.
Know Your Spouse's Goals for the Divorce Settlement
Just like you have goals from the divorce settlement, so does your spouse. Knowing exactly what your spouse wants and what their goals are allows you to create win-win scenarios. Listen to what they want and take them seriously, even if you don't agree because this can provide valuable clues as to what you can bargain for. For example, if you know your spouse wants the boat and the newer SUV, neither of which help you meet your goals, you can use this knowledge to help you get what you want.
Gain Momentum Through Goodwill
In most divorce negotiations, there are some challenges that may lead to a fight. This could include child custody, getting the house, or dividing a bank account. If you try to tackle the big issues first, the animosity could either bleed into other issues turning everything into a big fight, or it causes negotiations to stall immediately.
Before tackling these big issues, negotiate simple things first so you can build momentum and goodwill. Having an experienced attorney on your side who can help you create this strategy helps you know where you can start and find simple issues that can lead to big wins.
Avoid Drawing Lines in the Sand
One of the biggest mistakes people make in a divorce settlement is drawing a line in the sand with hard demands. For example, if you walk into your negotiations saying that you want the house and a set amount in spousal support, and you refuse to sign anything that doesn't have this, you're immediately setting up positional bargaining. Your spouse may counter with saying they also want the house and refuse to pay spousal support. Immediately, your negotiations have stalled before they've started.
Instead, when you're focusing on the goals you want to meet, you can state what you want to achieve rather than what you want and your spouse can do the same. For example, if you can state that your goal is to provide your children with stability and security, you can discuss ways to achieve this that will lead to more productive negotiations.
Schedule a Consultation with Our Divorce Attorneys Today
If you are divorcing your spouse and would like to negotiate a successful settlement, it can be difficult to do this alone. Having an experienced, knowledgeable divorce attorney on your side who can help you determine and achieve your goals can lead to a much more advantageous outcome. Our divorce attorneys have a track record of negotiating successful settlements for our clients and would like to help you come through your divorce feeling confident and secure in your future. To get started, just fill out the contact form on our website or call our Raleigh office at (919) 301-8843.