Good agreements focus on the parties’ interests, rather than their positions. As Fisher and Ury explain in their book “Getting to YES”. “Your position is something you have decided upon. Your interests are what caused you to so decide.”[p. 42] Defining a problem in terms of positions means that at least one party will “lose” the dispute. When a problem is defined in terms of the parties’ underlying interests it is often possible to find a solution which satisfies both parties’ interests. The first step is to identify the parties’ interests regarding the issue at hand. This can be done by asking why they hold the positions they do, and by considering why they don’t hold some other possible position. Each party usually has a number of different interests underlying their positions. And interests may differ somewhat among the individual members of each side. However, all people will share certain basic interests or needs, such as the need for security and economic well-being. Once the parties have identified their interests, they must discuss them together. If a party wants the other side to take their interests into account, that party must explain their interests clearly. The other side will be more motivated to take those interests into account if the first party shows that they are paying attention to the other side’s interests. Discussions should look forward to the desired solution, rather than focusing on past events. Parties should keep a clear focus on their interests, but remain open to different proposals and positions.
For most people, going through the process of separation and divorce is a very emotional time. Even though you may agree to divorce, you might not agree about anything else. Talking to each other, and making mutually beneficial decisions regarding financial division, child & spousal support, and custody can be very difficult. This process often goes more smoothly when a Mediator is present.