How to Approach Divorce Mediation (what NOT to do)

divorce mediation approach to not sabotage divorce settlement

There are a number of benefits you can derive when you decide to go through the divorce mediation process.

It’s quicker, cheaper, more confidential and you have greater say in the outcome than going through the courts.

But there are some rules you’ll need to play by for a mediation to be successful.

If you do not abide accordingly, you’ll sabotage your divorce and your life needlessly, assuming that both sides are in enough agreement to give mediation a shot.

Here’s how NOT to sabotage your divorce mediation process:

Do NOT go into mediation with a “win at all costs” mentality.

Mediation is about working together and compromise.  You are being reasonable in exchange for a whole slew of benefits in return.  If you were to go to court, you probably wouldn’t win everything you want anyway.

Do NOT make false accusations against your spouse.

That means not claiming spousal abuse, drug or alcohol use, child abuse or infidelity, unless they actually happened.

If they did happen, weigh exactly how to use them as part of the negotiation process, but tread lightly if you sense your emotions getting the best of you.

Do NOT push buttons and use every opportunity to anger your spouse.

You should be thinking just the opposite, working to solve problems instead of creating new ones.

While you were married pushing buttons may have been great fun and a form of inflicting pain or perceived revenge, but now it will just flat out be counter-productive to the mediation process.

Do NOT use your children as a way to bargain for unreasonable demands.

If you want things to blow up in your face and spend a ton of money in court and with lawyers, using children to press a spouse into a corner will get you there as fast as anything.

Do NOT underestimate the value of being the master of your own fate.

With mediation, you have more control than if you go to trial, where laws and the interpretations of a judge and state laws will decide how your future life plays out.

In mediation, you are an active participant in deciding what’s in your best interests and then working to reach goals that are personally important to you.

Do NOT seek revenge or punishment against your spouse.

View mediation as a business deal…a problem to be solved instead of a battle to be won.

If you want mutually assured destruction, just head straight to your lawyer’s office and have them make as much trouble as you want and can afford.

Do NOT show up unprepared.  Mediation requires that you do your homework up front.

This includes gathering documents, setting goals, being open to compromise and not wasting time, which still costs money when using the services of a mediator.

Be smart. Be ready. Time is money.

Do NOT enter into mediation if you are not willing to be an active participant.

You can’t be passive and hope that mediation solves your problems.  You must be honest and willing to speak up for yourself.

You can get help from your divorce lawyer in helping you frame issues, priorities and discussion points, but most of the time, it will just be you, your spouse and a mediator in a conference room working collectively toward a common goal.

Don’t hide behind someone else and expect the best possible outcome.

Do NOT hide assets.

If you lie, you’re setting yourself up from so many headaches.

Honest financial disclosure is part of the trust building required to make mediation work.  When you are dishonest or hide assets, you completely undermine the foundation that makes mediation an attractive alternative.

The other thing is that if you move to a contested divorce, your spouse can subpoena records as part of the discovery process and you’ll either risk civil (maybe even criminal) penalties for not doing the right thing.

Abuse can also come in the form of infidelity.  Infidelity can also be tough, though not impossible, to work through.

If your partner has been unfaithful and you’re angry and humiliated, it can be very tough to simply sit across them with any degree of trust and hope to work things out.

Do NOT enter into mediation if you want to publicly shame your spouse.

Mediation is just the opposite.  Many couples choose it because it affords them greater privacy, especially when it comes to revealing finances.

Do NOT enter into mediation if you are in a hurry.

Mediation takes time.  Understand that in any negotiation, if you are in a hurry, you put yourself at a disadvantage.

It takes time to gather documents, flesh out and articulate issues and then actually do the work of sitting down across from your spouse and figuring things out.

If children are involved, things will take even longer because traditionally child support, parenting agreements and living arrangements are often the biggest sticking points in a divorce.

The other thing that will prolong the process is if you have a complicated financial situation.

Before you can decide who gets what, you’ll probably need to have certain assets appraised so you know what’s equitable in terms of property division.

Do NOT enter into mediation if you don’t actually want to settle your divorce.

This sounds counterintuitive to the process, but there are times when settling means that a spouse will have to start paying support.

Mediators cannot force you to settle, so some people actually use mediation as a stall tactic.  To counter this, you may decide to switch gears and go to court instead when you suspect this is happening.

Do NOT allow your attorney to have too much influence.

Attorneys are trained to protect your interests at all costs.

Sometimes that can get in the way of negotiating a compromised settlement.

Your attorney may take a hardball stance or counsel you to turn down what may actually be reasonable in a mediation.  This is not to say that an attorney shouldn’t be involved, because they should, especially when it comes to reviewing draft and final settlement agreements.

Just be aware that you should consider their input in the overall context of your primary goals.

Do NOT forget that with mediation, there is going to be less animosity during the process and that means there is going to be more stability after the divorce.

Through a greater understanding of each other’s points of view, anxiety and anger are reduced.

This is especially critical when children are involved and there is a need to maintain civility as part of the co-parenting process.

Keep in mind that if disputes do flair up, you can return to the same mediator who will already be familiar with your case, helping you to quickly resolve any new concerns that crop up.

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