No matter why you’ve chosen to end your marriage, it’s a frightening ordeal. If you’ve made the decision to negotiate the terms of your divorce through mediation, you’ve given yourselves the best possible chance of coming to a mutually beneficial settlement that allows for the best opportunity for a positive future. Here are a few tips to ensure that your mediation is smooth and successful.
1. Be Prepared As a Unit
In order to help you successfully divide your assets and debts, you and your mediator will need to know what they are. Prior to mediation, you and your spouse [together or individually] need to make a list of all of your assets and their current value. This includes homes, cars, businesses, bank accounts, mutual funds, retirement accounts, art, and other items of value. Likewise, you will need a list of your debts, including home and car loans, student loans, credit cards, etc. If you are working with your partner to create these lists, agree in advance that this is purely a data collection activity, and that you’ll reserve negotiations for mediation.
2. Be Prepared As an Individual
Going from one household to two inevitably increases expenses, Take the time to create an accurate budget for the next phase of your life. Knowing your financial requirements will help you approach mediation from an empowered and realistic place. Your mediator will inform you about what the law considers an equitable division of assets, spousal maintenance and child support, so that you know your rights. When each party comes to the table with a reasonable snapshot of their monthly financial “nut” they can productively tackle the objective of getting both budgets covered.
3. Define Your Boundaries and Speak Up
While there’s nothing comfortable about divorce, you shouldn’t feel anxious in mediation. No decision will be made without your full agreement. If you and your spouse can’t be in the same room productively, ask your mediator to work with you in separate rooms. Your mediator is not a mind reader. Ask for what you need in advance, as well as in the moment to ensure that you are satisfied with the end result.
4. Check Your Paranoia
A mediator is Switzerland, a neutral third party. So a “win” is when both parties come to a mutually beneficial agreement that allows them [and their children] to lead future happy and productive lives. A mediator does not take sides, nor is he/she gender biased. So as your mediator is attempting to listen compassionately to the other party, do not assume favoritism or bias – you are being equally heard.
5. Treat it Like a Business Deal
While it may seem important to bring your collection of hurts and resentments to the table to make your case, what your spouse did in the past has no bearing on how your assets are divided or what kind of parenting plan will be the best for your children. A business deal is never “my way or the highway”, it is understood that two parties are coming to the table with their own interests at stake, but that a deal will only be struck if it supports the interests of the other party. Part of what a mediator does is come up with creative alternatives that you may not have considered. If you draw a line in the sand you limit the possibility of considering the many ways to resolve issues. Approaching divorce mediation from the same perspective, lends itself to a more productive, peaceful and ultimately successful process.