How to Negotiate with a Dominant Spouse

A lot of my clients negotiate with their spouses directly about the settlement of divorce disputes. Many times my clients want to know what to say. I have developed a simple script for them to follow. The simplicity is important because they need to be able to remember the script under pressure. Here it is:

Give only 20% information and try to get 80%. Information is power. Information is like the cards you hold in your hand that the other players can’t see. Keep it to yourself, but give just enough information to lure the other party into sharing. Hopefully, you’ll get them talking and revealing everything you need to know about them, while still holding your cards.

Say, “What do you propose?” Many times the other spouse, particularly a dominant spouse, will use a discussion to simply dominate instead of solve problems. That’s what they know. So put the burden on them to be specific. Ask them, “What do you propose?”

Say, “How will that work?” Often times the dominant party will make a proposal which is totally inadequate. For example, a man might offer $3,000 in support when the woman, who does not work, is supporting three children on a budget twice that. When such a ridiculous proposal is made, shift the burden by saying, “Okay, I hear your proposal, but our budget is $6,000 a month, so how will it work if you pay me $3,000?”

Say, “What is that based upon?” I have been in negotiations with many lawyers and they will tell me their position. I will ask, “What authority (case law) do you have for that position. I’ll look at it and maybe I’ll have to change my position once I see it.” So, put the burden on the other party to come up with some support for the position they are taking. Let them know you are interested in knowing what supports their position.

Say, “I’ll consider that.” Dominant negotiators try to pin the other person down with their superior physical size, financial power, position of authority (i.e. “Man of the house”), or dominant or even abusive personality. The way to neutralize this is to let them know that you will consider the offer. This means you will think about it. Only a fool doesn’t take time to think.

Say, “Further conversation is not constructive at this time.” Nothing comes from arguing. If the conversation is not going in a constructive way, withdraw.

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