Divorce mediation is an attractive option for couples who want to reduce the amount of stress, time, and money they spend getting a divorce. Mediation sessions give both parties a unique opportunity to use their voices, be heard, and come to important compromises that will set the tone for a healthy future. If you’re about to begin divorce mediation, here’s what you need to know about preparing for the process.
What Is Divorce Mediation?
Divorce mediation is an alternative to divorce litigation or a contested divorce. Rather than each party hiring a lawyer to advocate for their best interest, the couple will speak for themselves. A mediator can provide guidance and suggestions that will help them shape their ideal divorce settlement.
Couples are able to communicate what they want and need from each other, express what they believe to be in their children’s best interest, and work towards building a future as friends (and co-parents) on a foundation of peace.
What Is the Mediator’s Role?
The mediator in a divorce mediation session doesn’t act like a lawyer or a judge. They can’t force people to disclose information or impose consequences if they don’t. The mediator won’t make any decisions at all.
The role of the mediator is to listen to both sides, assess the level of disagreement, and make suggestions. A mediator is there to guide you in the right direction by informing you of the options available to you and explaining how key parts of the divorce process work.
What Are the Advantages of Mediation?
Mediation has many advantages. In many cases, mediation is the ideal scenario for most couples. It allows couples to avoid expensive, drawn-out, adversarial divorces. If you’re just looking to wrap up your divorce as soon as possible and get on with your lives, mediation can help you achieve that goal.
Quicker and Less Stressful
A contested divorce can take years to complete. You’ll attend court many times. You’ll constantly be in contact with lawyers. You’ll be working hard, not smart, to resolve issues preventing you from reaching a divorce settlement.
Mediation takes hours. If you’re satisfied after a few hours of mediation, you can file for an uncontested divorce. This can lead you to a finalized divorce in just a few months. You can attend mediation sessions whenever you’d like, however you’d like. You don’t need to air your dirty laundry out in front of the court.
Lawyers are very expensive, with many couples spending around $10,000 on lawyers throughout the duration of their divorce. This doesn’t account for the time you’ll need to take off work to go to court or what you’ll pay for childcare while you and your spouse are in court.
Mediation is only a fraction of the cost of working with a lawyer. Most couples will see a final bill in the hundreds, rather than the thousands.
Contested divorces become adversarial very quickly. The ripple effect can trickle throughout your whole family. It may create a negative environment for your children who may feel as though they have to “choose sides” in your divorce.
Mediation is peaceful and discreet. You’re having a person-to-person conversation with your spouse and a neutral third party who wants to see both of you happy with your divorce agreement.
Top 7 Things To Do To Prepare for Divorce Mediation
The goal of mediation is to keep your divorce as simple and stress-free as possible. Preparing for mediation will assure that things go according to plan. If you have all your ducks in a row before the mediation begins, the process can flow as smoothly as possible.
- Agree to Mediate
- Find the right mediator
- Gather the proper paperwork
- Generate a list of income, assets, and expenses
- Meet with a professionals
- Adopt a healthy mindset
- Prioritize your children’s needs
1. Agree To Mediate
The first agreement you need to make with your partner is an agreement to mediate. Read the situation. If you’re both eager to avoid an expensive, messy divorce, raise the option of mediation.
If your partner isn’t familiar with divorce mediation, explain the process to them or direct them to resources about mediation. When they see the advantages of mediating, they may feel more inclined to give it a shot.
2. Find the Right Mediator
It’s always important to find the right person for the job. With something as sensitive as divorce mediation, it’s worth taking your time. Research mediators and speak with several before you decide who you’d like to work with.
Your mediator needs to make you feel comfortable. They need to be able to understand where both you and your spouse are coming from in order to help you find the solutions you need.
3. Gather the Proper Paperwork
If you’ve already filed paperwork with the court, you need to have copies of that paperwork. It also helps to have relevant forms with you as you mediate. Your mediator can help you prepare the final documents after your mediation session, but your current documents are most helpful while you’re in mediation. You’ll have a record of where you and your spouse disagree, giving you a starting point for productive conversation.
4. Generate a List of Income, Assets, and Expenses
Mediation will help you decide how to divide property and assets. It can also help you determine spousal support and child support payments. You need a list of your income, your assets, and your expenses to come to a fair conclusion.
When you have all the numbers in front of you, it’s a lot easier to propose fair solutions to many problems. You can work out the math with your mediator and come to a financial arrangement that equally prioritizes both partners, as well as the future of your children.
5. Meet With Professionals
Many people choose to work with professionals during divorce mediation. A financial advisor can be invaluable if you’re running into roadblocks deciding how to divide assets. Mental health counselors can help partners to work through their negative feelings surrounding the situation, making it easier to forge a peaceful path forward.
Some people choose to talk with a lawyer outside of their mediation sessions. If you feel as though legal advice would inform your decisions, it doesn’t hurt to get a lawyer’s opinion. Just be mindful that you can’t bring your lawyer into a mediation session. That would defeat the casual atmosphere a mediation session is intended to create.
6. Adopt a Healthy Mindset
You can’t go into a mediation session with a grudge or a bone to pick. It’s normal to feel hurt during a divorce, but you can’t let that pain inform the choices you make or your attitude. If either one of you is unable to remain calm and rational throughout mediation, mediation won’t work. You’ll need to switch to a contested divorce and drag the process through court.
Considering the alternative might help you stay focused on the goal. Do you really want to transform the situation into an epic court battle, or would you rather learn to manage your feelings and productively communicate with your partner? You don’t need to be married to this person anymore, but you do need to maintain a civil relationship with them.
Mediation can be a great place to start practicing healthy communication. Think of it as the first step in transforming your bond with your partner from marriage into a friendship. You’ll work towards getting along and building a better environment for your children.
7. Prioritize Your Children’s Needs
Your children should always come first. Mediation is going to be less stressful for your children. They won’t see you in and out of court or on the phone with your lawyer. The divorce won’t drag through their lives for up to two years. Mediation can help you complete your divorce quietly in just a few months.
While you’re in mediation, think about your children. Their futures will be much brighter if they know they have two parents that love them and want the best for them. Things will be easier if they know their parents can communicate about important issues and agree, even if their parents aren’t married anymore.
When you make decisions affecting your children, like child custody and child support, your children should be the first people you consider. Look past what you want and look past what your spouse wants. What would be best for them?
Prepare to talk about it in mediation. Consider an outcome that will help your children see that they’re safe, loved, and provided for. You might want to have a family meeting to ask your children how they’re feeling and what they would like to happen. Let them know that they’re a part of a healing process, rather than a part of the problem.
When Is Mediation Best?
Mediation is the best choice when you and your partner are on good terms or would like to be on good terms. If you can both agree to set negative feelings aside and work towards shaping a peaceful future, mediation is a great option.
Mediation is also great for parents. Your children won’t see you arguing or be exposed to the court process. They’ll feel like they don’t need to choose a side. As their parents, you’ll be able to choose what their life looks like after your divorce. Regardless of the mediation outcome, parent-child relationships can be made stronger as a result of mediation.
If you’re concerned about finances, mediation may be a better solution. It’s significantly less expensive than hiring a lawyer to handle your divorce. Most mediators charge less than a lawyer’s hourly rate, and you’ll ultimately need them for fewer hours than you’d need a lawyer. Since the mediator works for both you and your partner, you can split the bill.
When Is Mediation Not the Right Choice?
Mediation is an incredibly helpful solution, but it isn’t always the right solution. There are cases where couples shouldn’t even attempt mediation. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of merely speaking with your partner, mediation may be too tall of an order. If the situation is potentially dangerous or highly contentious, mediation won’t be productive or helpful.
- When there is a history of domestic abuse
- When one or both partners are unwilling to disclose finances
- When one or both partners are unable to represent themselves without a third party present
If domestic abuse is impacting your divorce, mediation isn’t the best solution. You need to seek protection for yourself and your children. Don’t present your spouse with an opportunity to intimidate you or attempt to manipulate you into a divorce settlement you don’t agree with. If you’re living with domestic violence, seek help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers legal resources to people in need.
Mediation can’t force or compel anyone to do anything. If one or both partners doesn’t want to disclose vital information, like financial information, the mediator doesn’t have the power to make them do so. Only the power of the court can force compliance by implementing consequences.
Mediation isn’t a solution in cases where someone is unable to represent themselves. In cases where a spouse is estranged and cannot be located, medically incapacitated, or incarcerated, mediation isn’t possible.
Divorce mediation requires some preparation, but it isn’t as extensive as pursuing divorce through court. When mediation is a viable option, the divorce process can become dramatically simplified. As long as your documents are prepared and you’re ready to approach mediation with an open mindset, you’ll be glad you gave it a shot.