Five Tips for Successful Divorce Mediation in 2022

Mediation works when done right. It can be a fabulous way to reduce animosity, finalize a divorce quickly, keep your personal life more private, save money, and resolve conflict.

But mediation is not right for everyone. It only works when there is no power imbalance, both parties agree to financial transparency, each spouse seriously desires a settlement, and neither party has denied access to the children.

Benefits of mediation include greater post-divorce stability and shielding your kids from conflict. So, what can you do to increase your chances of successfully mediating a family law dispute?

Keep these tips in mind when embarking on the mediation process.

Tip: Commit to being a good listener.

Ugh, really? Yes. When spouses in mediation have good listening skills (and refrain from interrupting and attacking), settlement discussions stay on track. Bonus points go to you for empathizing with your spouse, as you may find they’re more cooperative when they feel like they’ve been heard.

Tip: Choose your consulting lawyer wisely.

A lawyer who is unskilled at mediation or unsupportive of the mediation process can kill your chances of settlement.

Most divorce lawyers try to take over and control the entire case. This just sends you into litigation mode. But why would you need a consulting lawyer?

An experienced consulting lawyer can review agreements, give answers tailored specifically to your case, and act as a law coach. They may be able to predict legal outcomes if you were to go to court and estimate the cost of litigation.

Between sessions, they can clarify your questions and prepare you for negotiations by evaluating best-case and worst-case scenarios, helping you identify legal claims you may not have known you are entitled to (e.g., reimbursements for joint expenses), and coaching you in negotiation techniques.

Tip: Don’t panic if your mediator listens or empathizes with your spouse.

Your mediator has to understand your spouse in order to assist you with a resolution. If you see your mediator nodding or listening intently to them, don’t panic. It doesn’t mean they’re taking sides or believing one side more than the other.

The best mediators listen to what is important to both of you and facilitate communication to help you reach a settlement.

Related: Everything you Need to Know About Divorce Mediation

Tip: Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Do your homework. This can’t be stressed enough.

List all of your assets, property, and debts. Have financial statements ready for review (present-day, date of separation, and date of marriage—especially if you are claiming a separate property interest). Provide at least three years of tax returns, three months of pay stubs, and evidence of profit or loss if you are self-employed.

Create a list of your goals. For example, is keeping the house a priority? Would you agree to a little less support if you had more custodial time? Would a buyout of spousal support be better than paying a monthly amount?

Make a list of all of your expenses. Talk to your mediator about whether an appraisal of key assets should be performed. You may want to consider meeting with a divorce financial planner to determine what you need to meet your financial goals.

Tip: Give to get.

You aren’t going to get everything you want. So, what might you be willing to give up in exchange for something else that’s more important to you?

A wise client once said, “This car won’t matter to me in five, years but being able to attend my son’s soccer games will.” Ask yourself, “Will this matter to me in a few years?” If the answer is no, move on.

Keep your emotions in check. Know that your spouse may end up with an appreciating asset (like the house), but look past this, thinking about the benefit your children will get from staying in the same school district and staying near their closest friends. In return, you may end up paying less support (because your spouse has more net disposable income as a result of tax deductions associated with homeownership) or having less debt. Be open to creative solutions that you may not have previously considered.

A silver lining

The above tips should assist you in achieving a great outcome after a failed relationship. Hey, there’s got to be a silver lining, right? Just remember: Do what it takes to walk into mediation prepared. Keep your goals in mind and your emotions in check.

You got this!

Learn more about cooperative divorce here.

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