Avoid making things WORSE ...
People get divorced because the marriage didn't work out as planned. Yes, that's disappointing because nobody gets married thinking the relationship will go down the toilet. At some point after the wedding bells rang, a disconnect created an atmosphere of dysfunction that permeated the relationship to the point of no return. This inevitably results in emotional scarring and damage to both parties.
But is it healthy to stay in a bad marriage? I'm all for going to marriage counseling and trying to make it work, but sometimes it just doesn't. I always tell clients, life is short, but life can feel really long if you're with the wrong person. We only go on this ride called life once, so doesn't everyone deserve happiness? Chances are, if you're not happy, your spouse or partner isn't happy either.
Even though it's good that both parties recognize it didn't work out and move on, a divorce is instead commonly used as a battleground to play out the emotional drama and hurt feelings of a broken marriage. That leads to one or both parties "acting out" and "playing hardball" in divorce negotiations. This "acting out" is anything from an angry spouse being unreasonable to more serious cases where there's verbal and/or physical abuse.
Use these five tactics to negotiate with your angry spouse and diffuse the situation.
1. React With Reason, Not More Anger
This is hard to do when you're in the heat of the moment, but you can train yourself to use this technique and it's often effective. Now, I'm not suggesting you act like a push-over, but do respond to blatant aggression with reasonable solutions.
2. Use Money As A Motivating Factor
Money motivates most people to some degree. A litigated divorce is expensive — tens of thousands of dollars between both parties and attorneys. People don't want to give all their assets and money to attorneys and would rather keep it for their post-divorce rebuilding.
If your spouse is being difficult, mention how much money he/she will save if he/she stops being so difficult and start being reasonable. Of course you have to act reasonably too, or this won't work. But once you start putting price tags on how much you'll spend if you two can't agree, your spouse (if he/she is smart) will figure it out and change tunes.
3. Suggest Alternative Methods To Resolve The Divorce
Going to court is not the only way to get divorced. In fact, ask most people, and they'll tell you it's the least favorable method — it's the longest and most expensive. (Unfortunately, if you have a difficult spouse, this is sometimes the only option.)
Mediation is a popular alternative. It involves agreeing on a neutral person (the mediator) who's charged with fostering communication and helping both parties agree on the terms of a settlement agreement. This includes everything from alimony to division of the assets.
Instead of hiring two lawyers and battling it out in court, you both hire one mediator and settle everything yourself. The key to mediation is that both parties have to want it to work and remember this, be reasonable. Mediation is often much cheaper and quicker than litigation, which is why it's popular.
4. Hire An Attorney
This may seem counterintuitive to the other tactics, but sometimes there's no other way. Assuming you have the money to do so, hire an attorney to light a fire under your spouse's behind to get them into gear. You want to hire the right attorney, preferably one who specializes in divorce.
Interview a few attorneys and be honest about what you're looking for. Tell them you do not want to litigate and that you just want to get your spouse to move forward and negotiate fairly. A good attorney won't come in with guns blazing, which will only escalate the situation further.
5. If There's Domestic Violence, Call The Police And Protect Yourself
I hope you don't find yourself involved in a domestic violence dispute, but it happens. Don't negotiate anything while that's going on. Victims of domestic violence are not on equal playing fields (emotionally) and should not engage in any negotiations without representation. Verbal abuse is also domestic violence.
Note: If you find yourself being harassed or verbally or physically abused on regular basis, don't hesitate to call the police. Officers are trained to handle domestic violence situations. When in doubt, call 911.
Jason Levoy is an attorney who teaches people without an attorney how to represent themselves in court and navigate the divorce process. He regularly provides free content to people who need it via his blog, VIP member newsletter, and free Private Divorce Facebook Group. You can find him at jasonlevoy.com.