Cooperative Dispute Resolution Strategies
Successful negotiations require successful strategies. At the outset, understanding each parties’ short- and long-term goals helps find common ground and helps bring focus on the areas of disagreement—while also giving each person an appreciation of the others’ perspectives and concerns. In anything we do, understanding the “why”—our mission—helps us figure out the “how” and “what”.
Once the goals are established, you need to accumulate the relevant information. For financial negotiations in a divorce, this includes tax returns, bank statements, credit card statements, brokerage account statements, retirement account statements, valuations of homes and amounts due on mortgages, credit cards, etc. Only after all the financial data has been accumulated can you begin the process of negotiating a resolution.
But—how do you go about successfully resolving the case? Does one party make an offer to which the other party makes a counteroffer? This is the “standard” approach—but is it the best approach?
In our view, when your focus is on achieving the best possible solution to help the parties (and their children) obtain the most desirable, efficient result, one which maximizes their resources and helps them each satisfy their goals, this is the absolute wrong way to approach the negotiations.
Rather—you should use the “V” approach—wherein you go “down the V” and then “up the V”, at which point you should have mutually come to the best settlement without having actually negotiated!
The key is to first jointly develop all possible solutions and scenarios for settlement. This is the “Brainstorming” stage. Literally no idea or concept should be ignored. Everything should be considered and put on the table as a possible resolution. For instance—one option is “sell everything and split the proceeds 50/50” and the alternative option is “each keeps certain assets and offset the values”. For support—one option is “buyout of alimony” and the second option is “pay $XXX for XX years”.
But it is not as simple as it sounds, because you should be creating a “Decision Tree” wherein you branch out with variations on each alternative. For example, you can sell some assets and offset others or you can buydown alimony, etc.
Once all the options have been outlined, you go back “up the V” and consider each option, weighing the pros and cons and feasibility of each, eliminating options as you go. Ideally, after evaluating each alternative, you will have found one option which is agreeable to both parties and which fits both parties needs and wants. At a minimum, you will have narrowed down the options to a point where the remaining negotiations can be focused and structured.
The key is information and knowledge. If both parties feel informed and feel as if they know the available alternatives—while also having the comfort in knowing that they were involved in creating the alternative scenarios as opposed to having the options “forced” upon them—they will be empowered to make a sound decision which benefits them both.