Divorce Negotiation Rule Three - Do Not Give Deadlines

On occasion, I have received settlement proposals with "sunsets" of, for example, 5:00 p.m. on a particular Friday. A sunset is really a threat, an ultimatum, which brings out the type of response discussed in Rule Two. Usually, these are not great proposals anyway or there would be no need for the sunset. After all, if the proposal was really that great, it would speak for itself and there would be no need for the accompanying threat.

Where the other side gives a "Friday at 5 p.m." deadline, try the following response:

Dear Joe:

My client was going to accept your proposal on Friday when she noticed that it was 5:10 p.m. See you in court.

The other lawyer usually then calls me and offers to extend the deadline. I then take the opportunity to explain to the other lawyer that the issue is not the particular time, it is that I do not want to be given a deadline. Try this, for example:

I promise that I won't threaten you during the settlement process, and I request that you don't threaten me.

Truth is, if the offer was that great for your client, they would not have had to resort to threats. And, if the offer was not that great, then nothing is lost by not responding. In any event, if you want the case settled, do not use deadlines any more than you would use any other type of threat or ultimatum.



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