Who Should Make the First Offer?

When divorcing couples begin settlement negotiations, many legal professionals believe their clients gain an advantage if the other party makes the first offer. The rationale for this point of view is that the first offer sets a limit on the best deal that the party making the offer can ever expect to receive.

On the other hand, some top negotiators now believe that the party proposing the first offer actually gains an advantageous bargaining position. The first offer can indicate strength and confidence and anchor the settlement talks in the preferred bargaining zone of the party making the offer.

If you do make the first offer, it is best to preface it with a polite statement about the legal standard governing the situation. For example, you could say something like, “When I ask you to pay for one-half of the day care expenses, it is not because I am out for your last penny. I am told that this is what the law usually requires, and if I am wrong, I will gladly stand corrected.”

The first offer can be at the high end of the ballpark, but make sure it is not outrageous. Unnecessarily excessive offers cause unnecessarily excessive attorney’s fees.

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