Legal Role-Play:

Ellsworth v. Ellsworth


Frank Sander and William Ury

Two-party, multi-issue negotiation between lawyers for a divorcing couple over the terms of the divorce, including alimony, child support, and income tax issues


Please note: you must order a copy (a.k.a. license/usage fee) for every person participating in the simulation in your course. This simulation has multiple roles, so you will be unable to complete your purchase without meeting the minimum quantity requirement of copies per role.

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PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

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Soft copy vs. hard copy

You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You will have one week to download your materials from when you receive the email. You are then only authorized to use, print, or share the materials as many times as the number of copies you purchase. The TNRC charges for use of this simulation on a per-participant basis. Therefore, you must purchase a separate copy of this simulation for each person who will be participating, regardless of the number of roles in the simulation. You will only receive a link to one electronic file, which includes all general instructions, confidential instructions, and any teaching notes for the simulation. You should separate out the instructions before distributing to participants.

If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.).

Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.

Ordering a single copy for review

If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, a PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package for the simulation is available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. All Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

To order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Quantity.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required.

If you are ordering hard copies, the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Quantity.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.

Bulk Pricing Discount

For bulk orders, we offer the following pricing discounts. Please note that these only apply to bulk orders of the same simulation.

  • Between 100-250 copies – 10% discount
  • Between 251-500 copies – 25% discount
  • More than 500 copies – 50% discount
Log In or Register to download the free Teacher's Package Sample.


Bill and Ellen Ellsworth are in the midst of a heated divorce. Mrs. Ellsworth instituted a divorce on the grounds of physical and mental cruelty. Her attorney will meet with Mr. Ellsworth's attorney to try to settle out-of-court. The issues with which both sides are primarily concerned are those of alimony, child support, medical insurance, ownership of family residence, custody of the children and visitation rights, division of securities and savings, and legal costs. Both parties want a divorce.



This case can be set up as a one-on-one or a two-on-two team negotiation. It is sufficiently complex to make teams worthwhile. Usually used toward the end of a negotiation training course, this case requires extensive preparation and involves a moderate amount of income tax law. It is recommended that at least one participant be familiar with personal income tax law. A minimum of 3 hours negotiation time is needed. Three days to run the full exercise is common. Any or all issues can be set for drafting. Agreements on other issues can be outlined.



  • The complexities of this simulation provide a good testing ground for the overall negotiating sophistication of participants.
  • Good preparation for the case requires extensive analysis when calculating BATNA's, deciding what client information must be kept confidential, and anticipating the other party's demands.
  • There is considerable opportunity to exploit joint gains by dovetailing compatible interests and using tax law creatively.
  • A variety of ethical issues are raised concerning the disclosure of information to the other side and the balancing of a client's long-term and short-term interests (e.g., revenge).



For all parties:

  • Psychological Evaluation


Supplemental Information for Ellen Ellsworth and Bill Ellsworth:

  • Background Information Memo
  • Client Feedback Forms


Supplemental Information for Attorney Roles:

  • Background Information Memo
  • Tax Memo
  • Legal Memo
  • Section 208
  • Child Support Guidelines
  • Attorney Report Form


Role Specific:

  • Ellen Ellsworth
  • Bill Ellsworth
  • Wifes' Counsel (Ellen Forthcoming Negotiation Memo)
  • Husband's Counsel (Bill Forthcoming Negotiation Memo)


Teacher's Package:

  • All of the Above



Agenda control; Attorney/Client relations; BATNA; Commitments; Competition v. Cooperation; Compliance; Confidentiality; Decision analysis; Drafting; Emotions; Ethics; Fairness; Information exchange; Interests analysis; Interests, dovetailing; Joint gains; Litigation analysis; Meaning of "success"; Misrepresentation; Objective criteria; Options, generating; Personality; Systems of negotiation

Ellsworth v. Ellsworth Attributes

Time Required: 3-5 hours
Number of participants: 4
Teams involved: No
Agent present: Lawyer
Neutral third party present: None
Scoreable: No
Teaching notes available: Yes