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Practicing Compromise

"A compromise is the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everyone believes they have the biggest piece."

-Ludwig Erhard

Picking a fight is easy. Avoiding one can take patience and skill. But it’s worth it. Because divorce is a marathon, not a sprint. Compromise can be a smart way to make your journey a little smoother.

Compromise is when two sides with differing opinions give up something they want to reach an agreement. It may sound simple, but in the middle of a divorce when emotions – and stakes — are high, it helps to have some handy compromise tips and tricks at the ready.

Be prepared

If you anticipate disagreement in upcoming conversations or negotiations, start with a positive approach. Look for ways for both you and your ex to get something. Is there something they want that you can give up without too much pain? Especially when it comes to family issues, finding a way to compromise intense conversations can save you time, stress, and money.


“It was really important to my ex that he keep the house. I couldn’t afford to buy him out of it, and I would have preferred to sell it. I knew I wasn’t getting as much from the sale, based on our appraisal numbers, as I would have gotten had we put the house on the market and sold it for market value. But to me, more important than getting the absolute highest dollar from our house was having a parenting schedule that worked for my schedule. I really wanted to have the kids on a 5225 parenting plan, not week on, week off (which he preferred). So we were able to compromise – he bought me out of the house at the number we ultimately agreed to, and he agreed to a 5225 parenting plan with the kids. In the end, we both gave up something to gain something else.”


Take five

When you find yourself in a disagreement with your ex, take a moment to clearly define the issue at hand. Sometimes you and your ex have different ideas about what the disagreement is about. Take a deep breath, slow down, and clearly communicate. You may find you’re closer to agreement than you thought.

Stay flexible

Keep an open mind and remain as flexible as possible. Listen carefully to what is being expressed, even if it’s being expressed with great emotion. Identify the core issue and look for ways to sacrifice some things you want in order to meet in the middle. If you want the other person to give ground, expect to do the same.

Things change

A solution you agree on now may need to be readdressed when circumstances change in the future. Deal in good confidence today knowing you can revisit and revise later if needed. But be aware that once an agreement is in place, there must be a truly compelling reason for a judge or a court to consider modifying it. 

Nobody is “right”

There is no perfect way to go about the process of compromise. You have legitimate concerns, goals, and perspectives. So does your ex. Letting go of the idea of being “right” frees you to find a solution. It’s a fact that nobody gets everything they want in a divorce. It can be easier to accept this from the get-go.

You win when you both win

Strive for a win/win. Make sure the agreed-upon decision is acceptable enough for both of you to feel comfortable, if not completely satisfied. Be open to discussing and revising until all parties agree. In many divorces, couples can compromise and agree on a significant number of things, but then there’s a small number of things where agreement and compromise become trickier. Set these “tricky” items aside – those might be good ones to address with more structured help from your legal team – and work through the items where you do feel it’s possible to come to a compromise agreement.

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