The word “negotiation” refers, in a wide sense, to interactions between people who are in a dispute or who have different goals and different desired outcomes. When negotiating, parties communicate back and forth with each other.
Negotiation is one way of avoiding court. It is a complicated skill to master, and it’s especially difficult to do well when you are having a difficult emotional time, are deeply emotionally invested in the outcome, or are lacking in objectivity. Negotiation in family law matters requires an approach and skill set that are different from those used for other types of legal problems. The best family lawyers are very good negotiators.
Negotiation can be done in many ways. Sometimes it is done in person. Other times, it is done by speaking over the phone, videoconferencing, letters, emails, or formal offers to settle.
Negotiation is also something that takes place as part of, and within, other processes such as, for example, mediation and collaborative family law.
There are some circumstances in which negotiation is not suitable. For example, negotiation is often not suitable when people are refusing to reveal critical information, when one person has a history of abusive behaviour, when there is an emergency, or when compromise is simply impossible.
Lawyers help their clients decide whether negotiation is a process that might work in their case, and they negotiate on behalf of their clients.