As divorce lawyers in DuPage County, we find that most clients are driven to engage in one-on-one settlement conversations with their soon-to-be ex-spouses prior to and during their divorces. This is something we are all inclined to do; it seems to be part of our natural healing process.
We have these conversations because we want our spouses to understand the logic and the fairness of our settlement position. We hope to keep our cases simple and we are confident that we can have some influence on our spouse’s thinking.
While our intentions may be good, we often complicate the situation by innocently saying the wrong things. We must be mindful that our purpose is to avoid arguing and to be as persuasive as we can be.
In order to get our partner to keep an open mind about satisfying our settlement concerns, we must first convince him or her that we are willing to keep an open mind toward satisfying their concerns.
Until we do this, our partner will have little motivation to budge from their stubborn or obstinate settlement position. Failing to validate their settlement position leads to arguments, and arguments do not settle divorce cases. They only make them worse.
Validating their settlement position does not require us to agree with it, it merely means that we are showing a willingness to learn why they think their position is a fair one.
We begin softening our spouse’s resistance by showing we are willing to soften our resistance.
Keep an open mind to what they want in the settlement, and let them know we have made room in our thinking to accommodate their wants.
One of us must be the first to transmit open-mindedness, or it will never occur.
Accept that we will not be able to change our spouse’s mind any more than he or she can change ours. We will only annoy them by trying. Our divorce courts are full of frustrated and angry people who thought they could change their spouse’s mind. It cannot be done.
The key to sensible conflict resolution is to validate the other side’s position and then work our way around it. This is done by mutual brainstorming in which the two disputants join forces and make the problem the problem, instead of making each other the problem.
Good things can happen when the parties combine their energies to reach a solution that benefits both. Until this happens, they will be unable to reach a deal that both can live with.
Brainstorming sessions are the answer. Both parties should be free to mention any settlement option they wish without it being shot down by the other party.
The disputants must meet and write down every possible settlement scenario, whether realistic or not. They must be as imaginative as they can be. The more options they can come up with is the greater chance they will have of finding a middle road that is mutually acceptable.
This process beats going to court, and it works. Most cases settle with the parties agreeing to accept at least one option that they never would have thought of, much less considered, if the brainstorming had not taken place.