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The basics of ‘interest-based’ negotiation in a divorce


Positions are black and white. Interests are multi-colored. That’s how Wendy Paris puts it in a post on Psychology Today, in which she discusses the essential benefits of “interest-based” negotiation in a divorce, in which the parties in a divorce vocalize and pursue their interests rather than take positions.

“Think of interests as the engine, the motivation, the impetus driving a position,” Paris writes. “They are expressed as goals, fears, reasons, concerns.”

It’s certainly okay to take a position, though it may be wise to focus on interests. Negotiating from the perspective of your interests is likelier to lead to greater satisfaction after divorce. As stated in the first two sentences of this post, positions are black and white, whereas interests are multi-colored. An interest can help define a position, perhaps even revise or eliminate it, which may save time, money and heartache down the line.

Paris gives the example of a divorcing couple negotiating over what to do with the SUV. In the example of a position, one party might state that she wants the SUV as part of the settlement. However, if this same party negotiates from the interest perspective, she might evaluate and explain why she wants the SUV (for example, to haul around the kids, if she has primary custody).

Interest-based negotiation, as opposed to position-based negotiation, may lead to better outcomes, though this comes with a word of warning: Every situation is different, and a particular approach or strategy is never one-size-fits-all – especially when it comes to divorce.

Read more: How to Have a Good Divorce: Try Interest-Based Negotiation


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