Understanding the difference between interests and positions could make all of the difference in helping you negotiate a better outcome in your divorce.
Position-Based Bargaining: Most people have a tendency to negotiate by arguing in favor of their positions. In divorce, this type of “position-based” bargaining can actually make it more difficult to get what you want. Once you and your spouse become locked into positions, the need to defend those positions can lead to a lengthy and expensive divorce. Often position based negotiations come to an end only after both parties have reached a point of physical and emotional exhaustion only to reach a “meet in the middle” agreement. One of the many problems with meeting in “the middle” is that the best solutions may have existed outside of either position. Creative negotiation that avoid positions and focus on interests can lead to outcomes that are better for both parties.
Interest-Based Bargaining: In divorce, couples start by determining their interests and look for true “win/win” scenarios. In order to appreciate how interest-based bargaining works, it is important to understand the difference between positions and interests.
Positions are narrow; “win/lose” proposals can only be satisfied in one way. For example, statements such as “I want Sole custody” or “I need $5,000 per month in support” or “I must have the house” represent positions that require the other person to “lose” in order for you to win. On the other hand, “interests” (sometimes called goals) focus on big picture desires that can be satisfied in many ways. Statements such as “I want our children to be kept out of the conflict” or “I want financial stability for both homes” or “I want us to be able to communicate better in our co-parenting” are requests to have an important interest met.
One of the advantages of focusing on big-picture interests is that you and your spouse are likely to have many of these interests in common. Therefore, although working on the details of how these interests can be met will still require some problem solving skills (and some bargaining) the negotiation becomes easier because you are both working toward these important common goals.
Interest-based bargaining is a skill that needs to be developed over time. Divorce negotiations are usually improved when the professionals involved have significant training and experience in this method so that they can teach these skills to their clients. Most mediators and Collaborative professionals have training and experience in interest based bargaining. To locate a professional who understands this method to interview and to learn more about interest based divorce negotiation go to www.collaborativelaw.org or www.divorcechoice.com.