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How can I get my ex to negotiate fairly?

Many separated parents can be so frustrated as their ex digs their heels in and won’t compromise on parenting or property matters. They seem to be so inflexible, stubborn and uncooperative.

What if I was to tell you that their stance is based on fear?

You might think, yeah right, they don’t seem very fearful to me when they are refusing to give me more parenting time or fighting for a much larger % of the asset pool.

Well, let me tell you that I have seen many separated parents be so consumed in demanding what they want, that they miss the underlying fear of their ex on what they need.

Let’s take parenting matters as the first example;

Your ex may have been the stay-at-home parent doing primary care for the children and assume that post separation, they would continue in that role. So, they try to limit the amount of time you get to be with the child based on the fear that they won’t see their children daily. You may think, well I want to see the kids daily too, and a fortnightly weekend together just isn’t enough. This tug of war of both parents wanting to see the children frequently, as this is what the parents and the children have been use to pre-separation has them stuck in an impasse with no agreement reached.

What is the fear of each parent;

Parent A - My kids need me every day

Parent B - My kids won’t be as close to me if I am a part-time parent

What is the need of each parent;

Parent A - Daily contact with the children

Parent B - Regular time with the children

Explore options on how each need can be met;

Parent A –

  • Pick up the children from school daily whilst Parent B is at work to have afternoon tea

  • Volunteer in school canteen or reading classes

  • Non parenting days do facetime at 6pm so they can see the children virtually

  • Children do homework/dinner with parent A before Parent B picks kids up after work

Parent B –

  • Have short schedule of overnights with children 2,3,3,2 alternate nights with each parent

  • Take child to weekly midweek night soccer training and Saturday game

  • Midweek dinner with the children as well as every second weekend

  • Non parenting days do facetime at 6pm so they can see the children virtually

Understanding each other's underlying fears shifts you from thinking their motive is targeted at you, rather than having empathy for each other. Each party may be panicking, scared of the uncertainty ahead and gripped with sadness in losing time with the children.

Negotiate collaboratively on giving what the other parent needs, so yours can be met too in the best interests of the children. Children love been picked up by a parent after school, have a parent work in the canteen, be taken to soccer like it was before separation.

How about property matters?

Your ex wants a bigger share of the assets as they don’t have the income stream to rebuild their lives quickly after separation. You may feel you have worked long hours to provide for the family and don’t think it is fair to receive less than equal share.

So, let’s think about what the separated parent’s fears are;

What is the fear of each parent;

Parent A - How am I going to afford to put a roof over my children’s heads?

Parent B - I’m going to lose everything I worked so hard for

What is the need of each parent;

Parent A - Have enough money for a home

Parent B - Be able to rebuild financial security

Explore options on how each need can be met;

Parent A –

  • What money is needed to continue to live in the same area close to the kids’ schools

  • Will there be a short-term plan to rent and a long-term plan to buy

  • How do I become financially independent to secure a loan to stay in the family home?

Parent B –

  • What living options are there to stay close to the children for shared parenting?

  • Will I still be able to buy a home to continue to have financial security?

  • Do I have capacity to buy out Parent A’s equity to stay living in the family home?

Negotiate collaboratively to enable both parents to put a roof over the children’s heads, to live close by for shared parenting and be financially independent. Children thrive in two loving homes where they can continue to have a meaningful relationship with both parents.

How do you get into the collaborative mindset before going to mediation?

Pre-mediation coaching sessions built into your mediation will give you a better chance at reaching agreement. Find out more here - Mediation | The Divorce Centre

Author – Cheryl Duffy, Family Dispute Resolution Mediator, Divorce Coach & Parenting Coordinator

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