Tips for Negotiating During Mediation

May 10, 2023
By Alternative Divorce Solutions

If you’re engaged in mediation, it’s essential to understand how you can pursue your best interests without getting into unnecessary disputes with your soon-to-be-ex.

To that end, understanding effective methods of negotiation can help you navigate mediation more confidently and get what you want out of the process when all’s said and done. Today, we’re exploring how you can negotiate for the ideal outcome in your mediation.

Understand the Purpose of Mediation

If you’re engaging in mediation, it’s either because your family law court required you to, or you want to try and dissolve your marriage out of court. Either way, the end-goal is the same: Avoid litigating your divorce in court and receiving a court-ordered divorce decree.

When spouses litigate a divorce in court, the judge presiding over the case ultimately drafts a divorce decree on behalf of the parties. The divorce decree lays out terms for the divorce that the judge considers equitable.

Leaving your divorce in the hands of the court is risky for a few reasons:

  • The court doesn’t know you. If the judge is biased, that can play a role in your final judgment, resulting in an unsatisfactory outcome.
  • You have no agency. Even if the judge is neutral, a court-ordered divorce decree removes any agency from the parties. You have very little say in the outcome of your divorce when you leave it up to the court, which can be frustrating.
  • It’s expensive. The average divorce in the US costs around $15,000, and a big portion of that is allocated in court fees.

Engaging in mediation enables you to avoid these pitfalls, allowing you to have more agency in the outcome of your divorce while simultaneously lowering cost and reducing conflict.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get everything you want out of your divorce using mediation.

Instead, you should aim for an outcome that’s BATNA—better than the alternative to a negotiated agreement. Having unrealistic expectations for your mediation can hurt you in the long run. Tempering your expectations somewhat and understanding the role of mediation in the divorce process can help make you more effective as a negotiator.

Don’t Go Into Negotiations Looking for a Fight

Mediation is almost always more successful when both parties are willing to engage in good-faith negotiations with each other.

If you view the dissolution of your marriage as an opportunity to "get back at your spouse," you won’t be able to arrange effective compromises with them. Instead, focus on an outcome that you would consider a legitimate "win-win" arrangement for both parties.

While it may be satisfying to try and be vindictive towards your soon-to-be-ex, especially if you aren’t on great terms, mediation is an opportunity to set yourself up for success post-divorce. An eye for an eye mentality will only make the divorce process more stressful and draw it out longer, increasing expenses and fatigue. The more committed you and your spouse are to negotiating mutually beneficial terms, the easier it will be to set yourself up for a happier, healthier life post-divorce.

Don’t Start Negotiations with a Compromise

You should always start negotiations shooting for your ideal outcome, and compromise down.

For example, let’s say you want to keep one of the cars you and your spouse own post-divorce. You are both owners on the registration. You have a couple of options:

  1. Ask for the car outright. You can then negotiate down with your spouse to arrange a compromise, for example, paying your spouse half the vehicle’s total value (since you’re both owners).
  2. Offer to pay for half the car’s value out of the gate. Your spouse can then negotiate down, perhaps by pointing out they drive the car often or don’t like another vehicle you own (that you don’t want) as much. You eventually agree to pay them 75% of the vehicle’s value, despite being equal owners.

Obviously, the second outcome is worse.

When you begin negotiations, you should always expect your partner to negotiate down. Starting off with an ideal proposition gives you more wiggle room to negotiate down towards a compromise that’s closer to a 50/50 split.

Negotiate in Your Partner’s Language

Instead of thinking about what you want from mediation, take some time to think about what your partner wants. Then, during negotiations, offer them something they want in exchange for something you’re interested in.

Negotiating in your partner’s language showcases that you’re legitimately interested in finding a mutually beneficial compromise and care for them. It also increases your bargaining power, helping you achieve the outcome you want from mediation.

Understanding the best way to approach mediation can be difficult. At Alternative Divorce Solutions, our experienced attorneys can help you find the best path forward in your mediation, increasing your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome.

To schedule a consultation with our team or learn more about our services, contact us online or via phone at 949-368-2121.


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