At Mundahl Law, we are big believers in family mediation, especially in divorce. Divorce mediation is almost always less stressful and less expensive than a divorce trial. Even more important, it gives you much more control over the terms of your divorce; you and your spouse can choose creative solutions a judge probably would not order. The neutral mediator in family mediation guides you and your spouse in communicating respectfully and effectively with one another, which often leads to better communication and co-parenting after your divorce is final. In short, divorce mediation has a lot to recommend it.
But even with all its advantages, divorce mediation is not magic. Simply walking into the mediator’s office and sitting down in front of her is not going to yield a fair settlement. You and your spouse are an essential part of the mediation process, and as such, there are things you can do to improve the likelihood of success. Here are some successful, time-tested divorce mediation tips.
Some things are true even if you don’t believe them. Some things aren’t true no matter how much you believe them. But for mediation to work, you have to believe that you can reach agreement with the mediator’s guidance. If you are going to mediation just to prove to your spouse or lawyer that “this won’t work,” you’ll be right—but you won’t be any further along in your divorce. In short, keep an open mind. Mediation works for a lot of people, and not only those who have an amicable relationship. It can work for you, too, if you are genuinely willing to participate in good faith.
If you didn’t check your fridge and pantry before making a grocery list, you would probably make a list that had you buying some things you didn’t need, and failing to buy some things you did need. Failing to prepare for mediation is the same, but with much higher stakes. When you don’t know what you need financially, for instance, you could waste goodwill insisting on a concession that doesn’t advance your cause, or give up something you didn’t realize the value of.
That’s why it’s important to go into divorce mediation prepared. Have an inventory of marital (and non-marital) assets, along with their value, so you’ll know what you’re discussing. If you don’t know what your balance sheet should look like, consider having a consultation with a family law attorney regarding those specific issues. If spousal support and/or child support is an issue, draw up a realistic budget before the mediation so you’ll know what you need to live on after the divorce. Ask your spouse to do the same and exchange the detailed budgets prior to mediation.
Focusing on your children helps you in mediation. First of all, remember that you are mediating for your children’s benefit. While kids are resilient, they are also sensitive, and the stress of your divorce is hard on them. The more quickly and amicably you can resolve it, the better for them. Second, the money you don’t spend on litigation (because you saved it by mediating) is money you will have available for the benefit of your kids.
Then there is the subject matter of the mediation itself. If you are trying to resolve custody, child support, and parenting time issues, you and your spouse should both focus first and foremost on the kids’ needs. Working toward that common goal, rather than your own preferences, will guide you toward success.
Remember, too, that when you walk away from your divorce, you don’t ever get to fully walk away from each other if you’re parents. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, and grandchildren lie ahead. If you start to lay the foundation for a cordial relationship with your ex now in mediation, it will pay dividends for years to come.
Think of a position as what you want (like primary custody of the children). The interest is why you want it (you don’t want to lose your close relationship with the kids). Positions tend to be oppositional; one party can’t win unless the other loses. But if you each focus on your interests in mediation, you are often able to identify multiple “win-win” solutions and choose from among them.
All mediators are not created equal. First and foremost, you want a mediator who is trained, and specifically trained in family mediation. Ask how long they have been mediating family cases, and how many they have helped to resolve. Ask if they have received certification, and if you may see it. A good mediator is proud of their credentials.
It’s also worth asking if the mediator offers mediation customized to the needs of your situation. For instance, at Mundahl Law, we offer Mediation Plus! Which are mediation bundles designed for particular situations such as divorce with minor children or high asset divorce where the parties are able to reasonably sit down and reach reasonable agreements with minimal attorney involvement. Packaged services like Mediation Plus! ensure that you receive exactly the services you need at a reasonable price. Whatever your mediation needs, we are here to assist you through the process.