Consult the Negotiator

Episode 9 – Chris Melcher

This week’s guest is top family law attorney Christopher C. Melcher. For more than twenty years, Chris he has been helping his clients navigate all the financial aspects of divorce, including tax consequences of property division and alimony, corporate laws dealing with the division of a family business, and the definition of income for purposes of setting spousal and child support.

He has presented approximately 150 continuing legal education programs to other attorneys across California and in other states on the issues of complex family law issues. A published author, Mr. Melcher has written multiple treatise chapters and several articles on financial issues in family law proceedings. Before entering family law exclusively, he practiced criminal defense and civil personal injury litigation. He earned his law degree at Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, and was admitted to the California bar in 1994. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from California State University, Northridge. He holds the rating of AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell* and a rating of 10.0 (Subperb) by He was named to Chambers & Partners Tier 2 for their individually ranked attorneys for 2019-2020.

Chris is an honest, intelligent, and honorable person and this shines through in this lively and informative episode of Consult the Negotiator Podcast.

Key takeaways:

  • Avoid the courtroom – keep control by aiming for the negotiated outcome.
  • Chris learned to negotiate by watching how his Mom navigated conflict.
  • Be objective – listen to the other side and the nuances of their position.
  • High conflict disputes are the most difficult to deal with in family law.
  • Some lawyers cultivate the ‘scorched earth’ aggressive brand. But they get their way through intimidation and more than likely, if you go to court, you will win.
  • Clarify your approach and litigation style at the outset to make sure you match with your clients.
  • It is surprising to some people how expensive divorce will be.
  • Ideally, your client will accept the other side’s offer – this is the best-case scenario. This will feel like a win.
  • How to respond to take it or leave it? Leave it!
  • The same triggers that have caused a couple to break up can lead to impasse.
  • Almost all divorces have a mental health dimension which adds complexity to the situation.
  • Whether a celebrity or not, we are all the same deep down and worry about the same things.
  • Video conferencing is making things more affordable and accessible.
  • Let the small stuff go!
  • The three biggest mistakes lawyers make?
  1. Taking on the client’s cause as if it is your own – becoming a cheerleader who lacks objectivity.
  2. Not knowing enough about the complexities of family law and its breadth and depth.
  3. Not setting expectations properly for clients.


Is negotiation the core of being a top lawyer?


How did you hone your negotiating skills?


Were you a mediator growing up with friends and family?


How do you personally negotiate differently to others in your field?


How to deal with toxic clients who want to destroy the other side?


Do your clients levitate to your style and approach to litigation?


How to deal with sharks?


The three biggest mistakes lawyers make?


How to expand the piece in zero-sum cases?


Money now vs money later?


Determining the value of a claim?


Financial disclosures?


Step one in preparation for a negotiation


Where to begin a negotiation?


When to use a mediator?


How to prep a client for a mediation?


Issues that lead to impasse?


How to respond to take it or leave it?


Non-economic terms?


Dealing with substance abuse or mental health type problems?


Differences in family law and other areas of the law?


How to set boundaries with clients


The most challenging family law matters to settle?


Celebrity cases?


How do celebrities keep their divorces out of the media?


The next five years for family law?


Keeping in touch with clients?

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