> Interests vs. Positions

Posted on July 30, 2013


From Bradley H. Andrews, Esq.:

One of the key principles of Collaborative model is the emphasis that is placed upon interests rather than positions.

What’s the difference?

An interest is a core need or goal. For example, having an important role in the upbringing of your children is an interest. Being financially secure is an interest. Ensuring that your children transition as smoothly as possible into a post-divorce living situation is an interest.

A position could be defined as a label or a demand that is associated with an interest. “Joint custody” is a position. It’s not an interest because by itself, it doesn’t address what the parent really wants. What he (or she) wants is to have an active and important role in making decisions about the children’s upbringing – their health care, what school they attend, their extracurricular activities, their religious training, if any. In an intact family, both parents would normally enjoy this role despite neither of them having the label of “joint legal custody.” It’s the core need of importance and responsibility that we are after, not the legal label.

Similarly, “I need $3,000 per month in child support” is a position. Having sufficient funds to live an acceptable lifestyle is probably the underlying need or goal, together, perhaps, with feeling that one is financially secure.

As for the third example, the desire to remain in the marital residence following the divorce is a position that is often stated by one (or perhaps both) of the parties. Usually, the motivation is to provide the children with as stable a transition as possible into the post-divorce situation; the idea being that as their familial structure and their daily routines are being disrupted, at least they will be coming home to the same bedroom. This may or may not be realistic (or desirable) in a given case; what’s important for present purposes is simply to notice that “staying in the house” is not an interest; it’s a position.

The idea of addressing core needs or goals, rather than positions, is the underpinning of the “win-win” model.

“Win-win” is the opposite of “zero-sum.” Zero-sum means I win, you lose; or you win, I lose.

Positions invariably are zero-sum. Interests, on the other hand, allow you to be creative and find solutions that are truly mutually beneficial; where each party stands to gain, and no one stands to lose.