Divorce mediation is a way for many divorcing couples to avoid the high costs and acrimony of in-court divorce proceedings. For these divorcing spouses, mediation offers an option that may resolve issues relating to your divorce in a manner that saves money and allows an end to the marriage on better terms than a court battle. For those individuals who choose this form of alternative dispute resolution, following are several tips for a successful mediation.
- Understand the divorce mediation process and the role of the mediator Mediation is different than a court proceeding. Mediation is not about apportioning fault or blame. The goal of mediation is for all parties to reach an agreement with which everyone is satisfied. Understand that mediators follow different styles of mediation, such as facilitative mediation, evaluative mediation, and transformative mediation. Be sure to select a mediator who follows the style of mediation that will best help to resolve issues surrounding your divorce.
- Give some thought to what is negotiable and what is not – Although it is important to enter a mediation with a flexible outlook, you should take some time beforehand to decide those issues that are negotiable and those that are not. You do not want to walk away from a mediation feeling that you have lost or that you bargained away something vital because you undervalued its importance at the time.
- Know the mediation is an opportunity to think creatively – A court proceeding has a limited number of outcomes. Mediation is different. Parties in a mediation can introduce any number of solutions that a court would never consider. This is one of the primary benefits of mediation. Parties can discuss and decide a host of important issues related to a divorce that would never be resolved in court. Your mediation may be more successful if you recognize this benefit and approach it with a creative mindset.
- Gather important documents and bring them to the mediation – Although the role of mediation is not to convince the mediator of the validity of your position (like you would a judge), it will be easier to negotiate with your ex-spouse if you have hard numbers and evidence. Be sure to gather financial information, such as bank accounts, savings accounts, retirement funds, stocks, or the like. Be sure to have documents related to important assets, such as real estate, vehicles, businesses, etc. Identify documents that outline the type and value of any debts held by you and/or your divorcing spouse.
- Decide whether your attorney will be present – It is important to remember that a divorce has legal ramifications. Any agreement you reach with your divorcing spouse will affect your rights and responsibilities going forward. Decide whether you would like your attorney present during the mediation. If other parties are bringing their attorneys it is wise to do the same. If you do not have an attorney present, it may be wise to wait before signing any agreement to give your attorney time to review and provide feedback.