In divorce, mediation is a process whereby a neutral third-party facilitates settlement negotiations. The mediator has no authority regarding the resolution and each party has complete control over whether or not they reach an agreement. If you are unable to reach an agreement during mediation, you still retain the right for your case to be heard before a court.
Divorce is a unique legal matter for parties may remain connected after a settlement and have a future relationship. A contested trial can be very difficult emotionally, so if you can do meditation and an uncontested divorce settlement, then it will benefit all parties.
In a trial, the court decides what each party will receive in a settlement, while in mediation you retain a wish list, negotiate, and compromise your desires for the future good of the relationship.
Here are some guidelines for mediation to be successful for both parties:
- Remain cordial and respectful of your partner.
- Be prepared and have a checklist of all the things you need to discuss.
- Make offers and be open to hear disagreement or other ideas without issuing ultimatums.
- Volunteer and disclose all necessary information regarding assets.
- Keep your eye on the clock and make sure your mediation sessions are fruitful by making concrete agreements. If nothing useful happens within the first hour or two, you may want to consider other legal options.
- Make the first step regarding settlement and show your desire to reach an agreement through mutual trust.
- Be creative and flexible so you can work together to find the best possible outcome. Always be open to negotiating and looking at the benefits of alternative solutions.
- Keep your painful emotions such as anger, grief, frustration, etc., out of the equation. Plan for this ahead of time so that you go into negotiations with your feelings checked at the door. Look at the proposal with a clear eye of observing the facts of your situation so as to determine what's best for you, your spouse, and your family.
- Appoint a special decision maker, a neutral person who you both trust and will respect their decisions on disputed matters such as custody in the future after your divorce is finalized.
- If you have children, consider a joint custody arrangement such as the popular 5/2 2/5. This is a predictable way of raising kids where no more than 5 days will go by without seeing your children. One parent takes Monday and Tuesday while the other parent takes Wednesday and Thursday then have every other weekend which will either be Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to one parent and then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to the other parent. The children have a set routine and always know where they are suppose to be.
- Go through the house and figure out what each person wants. If there are any disagreements regarding the division of property, agree to flipping a coin. Flip the coin and if it comes up heads the older person picks what they want most and then younger person picks something (tails the reverse). Then switch off with the younger person going first and the older person going second on the next item. Keep going back and forth until all property has been equally divided.
- Keep all the family photos even if it feels painful at first. Make duplicates if necessary so you can share them equally. If you have kids, do not cut the other parent out of your photos for this is an important part of their personal history, and they will want to have these memories as they grow up.
How To Find A Mediator
Talk to friends and family and ask for a referral. Clergy, therapists, attorneys, and state mediation associations might also have names for you. When interviewing, ask the mediator how many mediations they have under their belt, the rate of their success, how long it takes, what kind of couples are suited for mediation, and the cost.