Written by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury in 1981, the bestselling book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In has become a go-to resource for working through challenging negotiations. As it turns out, the “getting to yes” methodology can also be very helpful in mediating difficult divorce agreements. Below are some key insights that we can apply to divorce negotiations, based on the book’s five-point method.

1. Separate the people from the problem

When you view your ex as “the problem” or vice versa, negotiating a settlement becomes much more difficult. In truth, there are specific issues between you that are causing the split—not any one person. Focusing on the issues rather than placing blame takes you much further toward a solution that works for both.

2. Focus on interests, not positions

When you simply take opposing positions in a disagreement, one person “wins” while the other “loses.” Instead, try focusing on the interests of each person: what do you want in a settlement? What does your ex want? Is there any position you could take that could serve both interests?

3. Generate options for mutual gain

Once you’ve identified each person’s interests in the divorce, start imagining a number of alternatives in which both people stand to gain, turning a win-lose into a win-win scenario. This is key to turning combat into negotiation because both of your interests are now being served.

4. Insist on objective criteria

When contemplating the alternative solutions, you must base the consideration on an objective set of criteria. This is the more difficult part of the negotiation, because both parties will likely give up something they want. Here is where a neutral mediator can be most useful because he/she has no emotional investment in the solution.

5. Know your “BATNA”

Should negotiations fail or you find yourself losing too much ground, your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) is your baseline or safety net—the “worst case scenario” or default course of action you must take if you can’t come to agreement. Knowing your BATNA gives you a fair point of leverage in negotiations as the low point that both parties wish to avoid, helping you both stay motivated to come up with a better solution in the divorce agreement.

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Photo of Jason C. Brown Jason C. Brown

Jason Brown is a founding shareholder with the Brown Law Offices, P.A., a northwest Twin Cities divorce and family law firm. He is an honors graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato, and the William Mitchell College of Law. Jason has been recognized as

Jason Brown is a founding shareholder with the Brown Law Offices, P.A., a northwest Twin Cities divorce and family law firm. He is an honors graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato, and the William Mitchell College of Law. Jason has been recognized as a “Super Lawyer” by Thomson Reuters. Media appearances include WCCO Radio, KARE 11 Television, the Star Tribune, USA Today, Time Magazine, Minnesota Monthly and NBC News.