Interests vs. Positions

There is an anecdotal story about the two children who each wanted the one orange left in the kitchen. 

Their mother did not know what to do.  Did one child deserve the orange more than the other? Should she cut the orange in two?

Upon further questioning, the mother learned that one child wanted the pulp of the orange for juice. The other child wanted the rind of the orange for a science project. The solution to the problem was simple.

Each child took the position that they wanted an orange. Each child’s true interest in the orange was different.

One child’s interest was in the pulp. The other child’s interest was in the rind.

The processes of Collaborative Divorce and Divorce Mediation seek to resolve a couple’s conflicts by helping them identify their true interests, as opposed to their positions, in negotiations.

For example, a mother of young children who is going through a divorce might be adamant about remaining in the marital home.  The husband would like to sell the home because it is their only significant asset. This appears to be an intractable problem.  He insists on selling the home.  She insists on keeping the home. What can they do?

As your collaborative divorce attorney, or as your mediator, I will encourage you to get in touch with and articulate your interests.  Only after we identify your underlying goals for your divorce can we begin to negotiate in a manner that will meet your goals.

In the above situation, it would be important to understand the parties’ interests. 

Why does the wife want to keep the home?  Is it for continuity for her children? Is it for the value of the investment? Is it because she has spent a lot of time improving the home?

Why does the husband want to sell the home? Does he need cash for a new investment? Does he need to pay off debts? Does he fear being excluded from family life if the wife and children stay there and he is the only one moving out?

An exploration of interests in Collaborative Divorce or Divorce Mediation can offer the opportunity to reach solutions that meet everyone’s interests.

About Vicki Volper

I am a divorce attorney in Westport who empowers people to divorce in a manner that maintains their dignity, preserves their assets and protects their children.
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