Divorcing spouses do not have to “fight it out in court.” There are better ways to work out the issues that face spouses when they decide to separate and divorce.
Divorce Mediation is one of those ways. Divorce mediation is a series of meetings between you, your spouse and a professional who helps you work through the issues you are facing. Mediation can save you time and money by resolving these issues before you file a separation or divorce case in Family Court. Mediation also allows you more input, more control and a stronger voice in reaching decisions about your separation and divorce.
A couple’s ability to resolve their issues through mediation instead of going to court is directly related to their ability to cooperate, their willingness to compromise and their preparation. There are four things every divorcing couple can do to increase their chances of succeeding at divorce mediation.
1. Make sure everyone is “on board” with using mediation.
If you are seeing a mediator before you file for a divorce, it is important that both you and your spouse agree that mediation is worth your time and effort. Unless both of you agree to give mediation an honest try, you are only wasting your time and money. Discuss it in advance and make sure that you both agree that this is the right way to handle your divorce before you begin.
2. Think though the issues and topics you need to discuss.
In order to reach a full agreement during mediation you will need to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. Preparation is the key to making good decisions and being confident about those decisions. In order to properly prepare and make the most of your time with the mediator, think through the decisions that have to be addressed and the decisions that have to be made then write them down and take them with you to mediation.
3. Gather the information you will need to make decisions.
You will need information to make good decisions. Once you have identified what you have to talk about during mediation, you need to gather information about those topics. Things you may want to consider gathering include account statements, bills, pay stubs, health insurance costs, daycare costs and school calendars. Armed with this information, you will be able to make better decisions during mediation.
4. Think through possible solutions.
Once you know the issues that need to be discussed and have the information necessary to make decisions, the next step is to write out possible solutions to all of the issues that have to be addressed during mediation. I usually recommend that each spouse outline three possible solutions. The first solution is what you would ask for if you knew your spouse would not say “no” to anything. The second is the worst you would agree to before telling your spouse “I’ll see you in court.” The third is what you think would be fair to both of you – this one would require that you each make sacrifices in order to reach an agreement. Writing out these agreements will help you decide what is really important to you, what you would like to get if you could and what really doesn’t matter.
If you take the time to work through the four steps above you will be prepared for your mediation and have a much better chance of reaching an agreement that works for you, your spouse and your children now and in the future.