Posts Tagged ‘money’

Proxies in Negotiation

When involved in a divorce negotiation people frequently use terms of the negotiation as proxies for measuring deeper issues and needs that they are afraid to talk about. 

For example, some clients see time with the kids as a proxy of how much they are valued as a parent or how good a parent the other person thinks they are.  Some see the amount of spousal support or the division of marital assets as a proxy for how much their contribution to the marriage was or is valued by their spouse.  

These proxies are ever present.  And they are very tricky. They are tricky because the proxies are often inaccurate, and they are being used differently by each party. 

For example, money may mean acknowledgement of the value of raising kids to one spouse, but not the other.  Time with the kids may represent an acknowledgement of equal parenting skill for one parent, but not have that meaning for the other.  When this is the case and it is not revealed, the parties often are missing the point of what the other is saying. 

It becomes easy to see how this creates a lot of the conflict, tension, miscommunication, and misundertanding in a divorce negotiation.  Understanding these proxies is the point of “mining for interests” that collaborative attorneys are trained to discuss with clients.  Good collaborative attorneys can uncover these proxies and then help the clients see them.  One of the tricky parts of divorce or any human conflict is that our proxies often obscure our actual deeper concerns even from ourselves. But once uncovered we can find solutions that address the actual needs, instead of just arguing about the proxies.  This uncovering of proxies and problem solving around underlying needs for both parties may be the heart of what makes a collaborative attorney and the collaborative process different than an adversarial attorney and process. Some collaborative professionals even refer to this process of breaking down these proxies as identifying the “conversation that we’re not having” or the “conversation that we need to have” to highlight that the deeper, obscured, and often unspoken needs of the parties are really driving the conflict, not the surface proxy issues.

Time with the kids is about actual time with the kids, but it is often about other things as well.  Money is about paying the bills, but it is often about other things as well.  We need to understand what those “other things” are, so we can help address them, whether with the concrete things like time and money or with less concrete things like expressions of gratitude, expressions of value as a parent, or acknowledgement of a spouse’s contributions to the life that the family built.  

Sometimes for clients the negotiation of a divorce is actually emotionally about trying to redress the hurtful dynamics of the marriage after the fact. Some clients are trying to “fix” in divorce what they didn’t like about the marriage. In this dynamic, time with kids and money become a means of measuring gratitude, contrition, absolution, forgiveness, recognition, value and many other feelings that the parties do not feel were sufficient in the marriage. 

There is no divorce process that can promise that old hurts from the marriage will be resolved or that all of the deeper needs of the clients will be met.  But, in the intimacy of a divorce negotiation, identifying those proxies and the associated deeper issues is often the only way to remove them as barriers to a successful resolution of a divorce.  Until they are uncovered and addressed, these deeper needs often serve as hidden barriers to resolution. This technique of getting to the heart of the matter instead of misguided arguing about proxies typically makes for more efficient, less drawn out, and therefore less expensive divorce negotiations in the collaborative process. 

If you would rather efficiently address the heart of the matter in your divorce negotiation instead of just arguing about proxies, then consider the collaborative divorce process.

How Do You Think About Money?

yankee-dollar-1239438-640x221One issue that comes up in every marriage and every divorce is money. How to make it? How much to make? How to spend it? How much to spend? What to sacrifice in order to get money and what is not worth sacrificing for more money? The different ways that spouses answer these questions in their own heads often reveal themselves in arguments, marriage counseling or, in a worst-case scenario,  a divorce negotiation. Unfortunately, we are not very good at seeing, understanding, or talking about our own individual views of money. So, we don’t talk about it with our spouse, or, we only talk about it in the form of a fight. Rather than wait until a fight or a divorce, you can get an insight into your views about money now, and start a conversation with your spouse about it while you’re both calm and nobody is worked up. The best quick tool that I know of to help you understand your (and your spouse’s) views about money are the Klontz Money Script Inventory and the Klontz Money Behavior Inventory. These were developed by two psychologists that are also Certified Financial Planners. The inventory is designed to help you gain insight into how you think about money. If you and your spouse both take it then you can see some areas where you think and behave differently regarding money. You can read more about it and what your results may mean as well. There is no panacea for having different views of money. But, knowing how you differ as spouses is a huge first step to managing your differing views and not letting those differences negatively impact your marriage. In a worst case scenario, taking these inventories in the early stages of your divorce process will help you and your attorney understand how you approach money issues. That, in turn, allows you to find a divorce solution that better fits your money values in terms of property division, alimony and child support. There is no downside (that I can think of) to understanding more about how you as an individual and your spouse think about money.  And, the upside is that it can head off unnecessary arguments, maybe save your marriage, and, at the very least, help you have a better divorce outcome.

Why Arguing is So Expensive in Divorce

In divorce, time is money.  Most divorce attorneys charge by 6 minute increments.  That means that you are going to pay anywhere from $2.50 to $7.50 or more per minute for your divorce attorney’s work. Legal BillI would be greatly concerned about using my attorney efficiently.  I would want more money going into my pocket, my kids’ college, or my retirement than to attorneys. To be sure, skimping on an attorney for a divorce is not a good idea.  That can lead to very expensive mistakes. But, paying more than necessary for your attorney can be avoided. In my experience, the number one factor in the legal fees in a divorce is not the hourly rate of an attorney.  Rather, it is the amount of time that a client pays an attorney to do things other than help resolve their case.