The Good Divorce: 6 Secrets To A Successful, Unmessy Mediation

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The Good Divorce: 6 Secrets To A Successful, Unmessy Mediation

You can achieve a "good" divorce with mediation if you know how to make it work for you.

Among various divorce processes, mediation is the preferred approach for several reasons. It significantly costs less than other assisted alternatives and empowers couples to control their own destiny and make decisions that best serve them and their children (as opposed to relinquishing the control to attorneys, court masters, and judges).

It also creates less emotional damage for all involved.

On the other hand, it may not be the best solution when one of the parties is not able or willing to fully engage in the process in a way that will result in a settlement that both will feel good about for years to come.

Divorcing couples who don't know how to have a divorce mediation that's effective need to know the following 6 critical elements of the process:

1. Both spouses need to be ready.

It is often the case that one spouse is way ahead of the other in calling it quits. If both spouses aren’t ready yet to dissolve the marriage, discuss the distribution of assets, or deal with custody issues, then the process is crippled before it even starts.

To effectively mediate, both must be ready to move forward and not use mediation sessions to attempt to derail the divorce. Readiness also includes having emotions in check. Divorce is, indeed, a major life event that makes for strong emotions but these must be largely dealt with outside of mediation sessions.

If you are the reluctant spouse or know that you’re feeling too emotional to productively engage in mediation, consider utilizing a divorce coach to help you address your concerns and issues until you feel ready.

Beware, though, that If you stall the process for longer than your spouse can tolerate, they might hire an attorney and begin the litigation process — this may result in far greater expense and emotional damage.

2. Get the right mediator.

Not all divorce mediators are alike! Many family law attorneys have turned to mediation to boost their incomes in a competitive marketplace but they aren’t really committed to a non-adversarial approach.

If you consider a mediator attorney, you need to ask them if they exclusively mediate or whether they also litigate — you want someone who is committed to a less adversarial practice and not just looking for a way to boost revenues. Also, you want someone with expert training in the divorce issues that are most important to the both of you.

Lawyers are experts in the law but not necessarily in divorce finances and custody or parenting issues.

If your primary issues are financial, then consider a divorce financial expert, like a mediation-trained Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®).

Even better, a CDFA® who is also a CDC Certified Divorce Coach® who can help you make decisions that are consistent with your values and tackle some of the emotional issues getting in the way of a good settlement.

If custody is the primary issue, you may want to incorporate a parenting expert into the mediation process or consider a collaborative divorce that incorporates parenting, financial, and emotional specialists in addition to attorneys for both sides (but beware, collaborative divorce can get quite expensive relative to mediation).

3. Be open to options.

A good mediator will educate the couple about alternatives to settlement options regarding asset division, support, and custody issues. They are an expert in divorce and is trained to address the pertinent issues.

It’s good if you and your spouse have already had discussions around the key issues, but even better if you both enter the mediation process with an open mind about creative alternatives that might improve your situation.

4. Have full disclosure.

Your mediator can only incorporate the information you share with her. Key information includes what you envision as your needs and wants for your future apart as well as all income, assets, and liabilities.

Creative solutions to divorce settlements are born from an in-depth understanding of needs and concerns and also the available resources. If a mediator senses there are trust issues, she’ll terminate the mediation process and suggest you consider litigation, instead.

5. Take your time.

Don’t let anyone rush you into an agreement you’re not ready for. Yes, in litigation there’s a clock running, but not in mediation! Take time to consider your options and make a decision that you won’t regret in the future!

6. Have an attorney review the settlement agreement.

Once you are satisfied with the agreements you’ve made with one another and have a draft of a Settlement Agreement, you should have an attorney review the Agreement to ensure that it's sound and can’t be legally challenged in the future.

Once filed, it’s difficult and costly to challenge your Agreement, so make sure it’s thoroughly reviewed before you sign anything.

Mediation is a great process for divorce and one you won’t regret if you make sure you’ve got the right mindset and utilize an appropriately-skilled mediator. Proper preparation will ensure a good divorce, one that you’ll be pleased with for many years to come.

Berni Stevens is the founder and principal of Divorce Solutions 360, providers of divorce mediation, settlement optimization, and divorce coaching. You can learn more about these services here.

Watch this video of Trained mediator and former trial lawyer Laura McGee share tips on preparing for divorce mediation.

This article was originally published at The Divorce Solutions 360 Blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.