Oftentimes, when we think of negotiation we envision being hit with rejections or back-and-forth conversations that lead to nowhere, right? It doesn’t have to be this way though. Negotiations should be as simple as having a regular conversation or friendly debate that offers solutions. In my experience as a divorce and family lawyer in Bergen County New Jersey handling child custody negotiations, here are four (4) things I have learned to do to ensure the negotiation process is less-painful and effective:

Actively Listen

Before the conversation begins, you should already be prepared to listen more than speaking. Actively listening involves making a conscious effort to hear, understand, and relay information that is being relayed to you. Allow your partner to finish their thoughts before you speak, and you should expect the same from them. When active listening skills are displayed, it fosters respect and helps to resolve conflict. During negotiations, active listening is helpful because it will allow you and your partner to come to an agreement faster and you will better understand each other’s viewpoints.

Be A Team Player

In negotiations, it has been observed that things work out better when approaching conversations as a team – instead of thinking about what you want individually. Consider your spouse’s likes/dislikes when making a decision. When the two of you come together as one during negotiations, it definitely makes the process less painful. You’re able to weigh each other’s opinions better, which allows you to arrive at a decision using less judgment and more understanding.

Offer Solutions

Should the two of you disagree on something, I recommend offering a solution (or a set of solutions) that will benefit both of you. For instance, this could mean removing something from your list of non-negotiables (that “really” isn’t a non-negotiable). Or, it could look like rewarding your spouse for remembering an important household responsibility that you may have forgotten to do in the past. Offering solutions to common issues are highly successful during the negotiation phase because it helps to reinforce positive behaviors.

Be Willing to Compromise

You might not get everything you initially asked for. Learn to accept that and be willing to compromise in order to protect the peace. In negotiations, it’s a two-way street, but some roads might lead to detours, U-turns, or one-way streets. It’s common to be selfish and consider your needs first while neglecting a large percentage of what your partner requires of you. However, in order to maintain a healthy, striving marriage, you will have to be willing to compromise some things during the negotiation process. 


This article contains general information and opinions from Sheena Burke Williams and is not intended to be a source of legal advice for any purpose. No reader of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information included in this article without seeking legal advice of counsel. Sheena Burke Williams expressly disclaims all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any content in this article.