Negotiation is something we do everyday with our spouses, colleagues, children, and even strangers. Most people are pretty good negotiators because they know what they want and what they are willing to give up to get it. The corner stone of negotiation is compromise.

So why do spouses have such difficulty negotiating a separation? The first obstacle is that emotions get in the way of decision-making. Whether you are talking about child support or spousal support, parenting time, or the division of assets, there is a strong sense of loss and an equally strong sense of fear. Emotions make even the simple seem complicated.

A ridged legal framework can frustrate the situation further. Well meaning friends and family can also make things worse by talking about horror stories such as of wives ending up in the “Poor House” and husbands never seeing their children. This is what many lawyers refer to as “The Chorus”. Rather than helping, these kinds of stories and comments from well meaning friends and family members, can fuel fear and mistrust at a time when the separating parties are already feeling vulnerable.

The reality is that emotional turmoil and financial uncertainty coupled with legal rights and obligations, makes separation very difficult. But it can be made simpler.

There are lots of ways to help simplify a separation. Some people need a little help. These folks will often use a Facilitator or a Mediator. Others need more help. These folks often benefit from the team approach such as that used in Collaborative Law.

Whichever approach you take, you need to remember that the cornerstone is compromise. By understanding how your emotions affect you, and knowing your legal rights and obligations, you can effectively overcome these common obstacles to negotiation. FInd out more about your options at Family Law Options and Can mediation work for me?


Michael Butterfield
Collaborative Lawyer and Mediator
Certified Family Law Arbitrator

Areas of Practice: Family law including separation, divorce, mediation, arbitration, child & spousal support, support variations, guardianship, parenting time, access, property division and more.

Victoria BC