The "Fixed Pie" Mentality

These negotiations fail because each spouse assumes that there is only a fixed amount to be negotiated and, in order for one person to win, the other must lose. To overcome this negotiation impasse, one or both of the spouses must start considering acceptable compromises which permit them to expand the size of the pie.

Illustration:

Homemaker Jane wanted sixty percent of the property but Office Worker Jim was not willing to give her more than half. During negotiations, however, both of them learned that Jane really wanted the security of a well paying job but currently lacked the skills to find one.

The solution:

Jim offered her more maintenance in exchange for retaining a 50/50 split of the property. He told her he would pay her $1,500 per month maintenance and, when she got a full-time job, he would not begin reducing the maintenance for six months. The initial reductions would only be 50 cents against every dollar she earned until she had stabilized herself in the marketplace. That broke the stalemate. Jane was willing to give up a larger piece of the pie in order to be assured a financial cushion while she was developing her job skills. Jim benefitted, because he could take the tax deduction for maintenance payments to Jane while retaining fifty percent of the property.

In this case, both the husband and wife found a solution without taking a larger percentage of the pie from the other.

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Lowell Halverson halvl@accessone.com
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