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Starting your divorce with the right negotiation mindset

Navigating divorce negotiations can feel like a daunting marathon, but starting with clear objectives can guide you through.

Here, certified Divorce Coach Chloe O. shares insights into the value of having the right divorce negotiations mindset, including setting achievable goals, avoiding counterproductive language, and finding common ground for a more peaceful resolution.

Starting your divorce with the right negotiation mindset

Ninety percent of couples begin their divorce process with the intention of keeping it amicable. That is often because they want to avoid the conflict, cost and time it takes to divorce in court.

Starting off with the right intentions is definitely a great place to begin, but divorce is a lot more like a marathon than a sprint. It is effectively a business negotiation, but with very high personal stakes.

So how do you make sure you stay the course?

You do so by setting your own goals which clearly define what a successful divorce outcome looks like for you, independent of your spouse’s objectives. This is about defining what “good” looks like for you, based on your own budget and priorities only.

Going back to my analogy of divorce being like a marathon, you are defining what the finish line looks like from the start rather than running aimlessly towards an unknown goal.

The role of a Divorce Coach is to help you design that finish line. To do so, you need to be clear about what an achievable objective looks like for you. Is your objective to break a world record or simply to finish? This is the mindset with which you must enter the divorce negotiations: it isn’t about what you can get but about what you want to achieve.

Avoiding the divorce swear words

I often advise my clients to refrain from using the divorce swear words ‘fair’, ‘deserve’, and ‘entitled’, as they are truly counter-productive in the context of a divorce. Entering a successful negotiation requires a shift in mindset.

Fairness is a very relative concept. What seems fair to one person will not seem so to another. Furthermore, that wording involves a sense of emotional justice which doesn’t always happen during a divorce. This isn’t about rectifying a wrong or giving one person their due. It is about disentangling two lives in the most balanced way possible, ensuring the spouses and their children are left in the best circumstances possible to start their new life.

The words ‘deserve’ and ‘entitled’ are equally to be avoided. Many people believe the law dictates the terms of their divorce. Unfortunately, the reality is that every case is different and each party firmly believes that they have specific rights to certain things, whether it is to have the children most of the time because they are still young or to receive 50% of their spouse’s pension.

Thinking in this manner sets unrealistic expectations about what people deserve or are entitled to, which can make negotiations very difficult. If each person has a fixed expectation of what a good outcome looks like, there is a strong chance there will not be any overlap between their two positions. If each party has in mind a range of acceptable outcomes, then there is a chance that these might overlap.

This subsequently creates the possibility of a negotiation zone. That’s why starting the conversation based on what you need in order to move on with your life healthily, rather than what you think you can get, allows you to create opportunities for a faster and more efficient resolution.

Using the right words in order to frame the right approach to divorce

If the words ‘fair’, ‘deserve’ and ‘entitled’ are swear words in divorce, then what are the right words to use?

In reality, divorce is about reaching an agreement that is both ‘reasonable’ and ‘liveable’ for both parties. It really isn’t about what you might possibly get if you go to court, which is often hard to predict anyway, it is about what feels acceptable to you because it meets your top priorities.

The reality is that no one wins in a divorce. Victory lies in having achieved a successful outcome that meets your main objectives, not all your objectives, and allows you to win on points that truly matter to you. Victory is not relative to your ex in this context, it is relative to your goals, whether that is getting more time with the children, a greater share of the family home or something else.


In an ideal world, everyone’s expectations would be set out in full before they enter divorce settlement negotiations. Unfortunately, divorce is often portrayed as war; where one person’s victory is the other person’s loss.

While there are some matters that are by nature binary, there are usually other options to be explored to achieve a balance that gives everyone enough. There can be a zone of grey between the black and white of each spouse’s position. The key is understanding this from the outset and being willing to compromise, in order to achieve your own reasonable version of success.

More about Chloe

Chloe O. is a Certified Divorce Coach and conflict resolution specialist. She works with her clients to support them through the ups and downs of divorce, helping them to part ways more peacefully in order to preserve their children’s and their own well being. Chloe offers a free discovery call for new clients so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you want to discuss your specific situation and challenges.

Divorce coaching at Stowe

More information about divorce coaching at Stowe Family Law. 

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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