April 18, 2013

Will Playing Hardball in Divorce Get Me What I Want?

Categories: Collaborative LawDivorce

You catch more flies with honey than with vinegarPeople that face divorce often describe feeling caught between two powerful motivators.  On the one hand, they often feel they will need to “play hardball” in order to make sure they get the settlement they deserve. On the other hand, they know that an acrimonious divorce could damage their children, their integrity and their financial stability.

What most people do not know is that you do not need to choose between a peaceful solution and getting a better outcome.   In fact, you can actually protect yourself more effectively through well planned civil negotiating methods.   Hiring an attorney to play hardball in divorce court almost always backfires in divorce court.

More than 95% of all divorce cases end in a settlement rather than a trial.   Therefore, it is most effective to think of the divorce process as a exercise in getting your spouse to “say yes” to your most important goals.

It is important to think about the technique that is most likely to get your spouse to “say yes” to the things that matter the most to you.  Playing “hardball” is generally a strategy of having your attorney make aggressive arguments.  While that might, on the surface, seem like what you want your attorney to do, is this really likely to work?  How often have you seen arguments cause your spouse to change his or her mind?  Arguments and aggressive tactics in divorce court,  like most arguments in the kitchen, generally just lead to more arguments and aggression.

There is an old saying that “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”, which, of course means that you get better agreements through smart civil tactics.  This saying is even more true in the divorce world where aggressive “vinegar” arguments are nearly certain to create an emotional response that will simply lead to more arguments.

Does being civil during divorce mean that you simply need to give in to everything your spouse wants?  To the contrary; civility does not mean weakness and, in divorce, you can seek advocacy without stirring up acrimony.  One way that is growing rapidly around the world, is a method called Collaborative Practice where you and your spouse hire attorneys and other professionals who focus on settlement only and who help both spouses find better outcomes.  This gives you the opportunity to have someone “advocate” for you in a way that is far more likely to protect your interests.

Ron OuskyABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ron Ousky
Attorney, Ousky Law Firm

Ron Ousky is a Collaborative Attorney and mediator who has worked with divorcing families for thirty years and focuses on helping his clients find better outcomes through Collaborative Practice, mediation and other creative alternatives. Ron is also the co-author of The Collaborative Way to Divorce, and has trained divorce lawyers throughout North America and in Europe. He is also the co-founder of the Collaborative Alliance, an office sharing suite in Edina, that brings lawyers, mental health professionals and financial experts together to find better solutions for families. To learn more about Ron and his practice, go to www.Ousky.com

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3 Responses to Will Playing Hardball in Divorce Get Me What I Want?

  1. Carl Arnold says:

    In addition to trying to get agreement on your client’s most important goals rather than trying to convince the other spouse that your client is right, I would add (and I think you implied) that it is similarly important for clients to listen to and understand their spouse’s goals and try to help them reach them to the extent possible. You are absolutely right, “How often have you seen arguments cause your spouse to change his or her mind?” Never! The tougher/louder you get, the more they close their ears. Good article!

  2. Kellie McConahay says:

    It is so true that aggressive posturing starts a dangerous and expensive spiral in a divorce. That’s why I enjoy collaborative practice; we focus our energy on finding shared goals, maximizing the family’s overall finances and protecting children from conflict. I believe the end result is better, and certainly the process for reaching the settlement is much more efficient and productive.

  3. Emily Murphy says:

    Anyone who has been present when a professional in a divorce escalates sees firsthand the destruction it can cause. Being civil isn’t showing weakness: it’s showing strength.

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