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The psychology behind property disputes during divorce

A lot of people dread going through divorce proceedings because generally speaking, divorce entails heated negotiations that don’t always end amicably for the parties involved. In a lot of cases, couples are forced to turn to the courts where a judge will have the ultimate say over the unresolved matter.

But why do a majority of family law matters — such as property division — typically end in disputes? According to a number of psychological papers on the subject, a lot of this has to do with how our brains are wired. Let’s take a look. 

The difference between men and women’s brains

We’ve all heard the saying, “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus,” which is a really short way of saying, “The reason you’re having difficulty communicating with a member of the opposite sex is because your brain and speech tendencies are very different from one another.”

As a 2012 article for the American Psychological Association confirms, men and women tend to negotiate in different ways because men are more task oriented while women focus on the effect a decision will have on their relationship with others. This can create problems during property division negotiations, particularly because women are more likely to accept a smaller settlement offer if they think it will maintain amiability with their ex.

In addition, conflicts can also arise when we associate particular memories with an object or perceive a link between the object and a relationship with another individual. This attribute is more often associated with women than men, though both sexes may find it difficult to let go of marital property they feel particularly attached to.

The role of stress and emotions in divorce

The difference between how we process things isn’t the only factor in property division disputes. Psychology experts point out that stress can actually affect how we make decisions because it triggers our desire to “store” critical resources, such as money. The uncertainty of the future and the intense stress this can sometimes cause can lead to bitter disputes, particularly among high-asset individuals who oftentimes have concerns about the state of their assets and nest eggs after a divorce.

Keeping control rather than losing your cool

Even though knowing about these psychological factors may help you take a step back during divorce negotiations, having an attorney at your side can also be a major benefit as well. Many have experience helping people through difficult legal disputes, including property division disagreements. In a lot of cases, having a lawyer can mean the difference between maintaining control over the situation and losing your cool.