Understanding the Divorce Mediation Process

Laura E. Shapiro -

It’s no secret that divorce is one of the hardest things you and your family will ever go through. Even in the most amicable of circumstances, the changes within your family structure can be tough.

It makes sense, then, that you’d want to make the divorce process as easy as possible.

But hashing things out in court can heighten tensions between you and your spouse. On top of that, allowing a judge to make major decisions about finances and child custody means that no one leaves the marriage with what they want.

But what alternatives do you have?

Divorce mediation is a great option for couples who are having a hard time making decisions about everything from the division of assets to child custody. Not familiar with divorce mediation?

Read on to learn more! 

Two people meeting with a mediator

What Is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is a process that helps you and your spouse reach a mutually agreed-upon resolution of contested issues in your divorce. Divorce mediation occurs outside of a courtroom, but with a mediator present.

In this process, the mediator serves as a neutral third-party who helps the couple resolve issues that they disagree about. It can happen in a number of ways.

One of the most common ways mediation occurs is when both parties, their attorneys, and the mediator sit at a table and discuss the contested issues. 

If the relationship is more contentious, then the mediator may separate the parties and speak with one party at a time. Offers are made and the mediator goes back and forth. 

The process continues until you have a final agreement or decide there is no agreement. 

Divorce mediation can take a short amount of time — an hour or two — or it can take several hours. The length of the mediation depends upon the willingness of the parties to be flexible in order to reach an agreement.

Why Opt for Divorce Mediation?

Mediation is required by the Court.  It is rare that you’ll have a divorce that is completely uncontested. Factors like children, alimony (maintenance), and multiple pieces of real estate are often the most contested issues in a divorce.

Often a judge’s decision about what’s in your family’s best interest is often not the same as the decision you would make. Divorce mediation puts the power back in your hands to make decisions about your family’s future and increases the likelihood of having an amicable divorce.

You may not get everything that you want, but what you get will be something that you have negotiated for and feel comfortable with.

On top of all that, hashing out your divorce in court is an expensive and lengthy process that places a lot of stress on all parties. Mediation helps you and your loved ones avoid the emotional and financial stress of a trial.

Mediation Preparation

One of the most important things to do as you head into mediation is to make sure you are fully prepared. Consider the following factors thoroughly before you enter the room with the mediator.

Set Your Goals

Make a list of all the issues that are contested. Do you feel like your spouse isn’t willing to give you enough alimony or child support? Do you feel like you should get the marital home because you’ll have custody of the kids?

Once you’ve made a list of all the contested issues within your divorce, make a list of what your preferred outcome is for each goal. Identify which issues are most important to you and which issues you’d be willing concede on.

Sometimes you will find that issues important to one are not that important to the other.  You may be able to leverage those in order to get what you want on your most important issues.

Think About Your Hard Limits

Deciding on your hard limits is equally as important as setting your goals. Your hard limit is the furthest you will negotiate down before you’ll walk away from the mediation.

Be reasonable about your hard limits, don’t expect to get every single thing that you want.

It’s Not About Winning

As you’re setting your goals and limits, you should keep in mind the reason you’re having the mediation in the first place: because you want a divorce that is equitable and fair to all parties.

It’s not about winning or losing.

This is especially true when children are involved — you are working toward a resolution that is in their best interest and causes them the least stress.

Bring All Necessary Paperwork

Last, you’ll want to make sure that you bring all the paperwork you’ll need in order to have a successful mediation.

Examples of important paperwork include pay stubs, tax returns, lists of assets and debts, and prenuptial agreements, among others.

For more information on preparation, check out our article: How to Prepare for Divorce Mediation.

When to Move on from Mediation

Divorce mediation is a great option for many couples who are willing to come to the table and make decisions that are in the best interest of their family.

Unfortunately, some divorce proceedings have parties that are completely unwilling to concede on their desired goals.  If that is the case, then mediation may not be successful. 

Similarly, both parties may come to the table ready to be reasonable, but even good-faith mediation attempts can fail.

If you’ve been in mediation for several hours and aren’t making any progress whatsoever, then it may be best to move on to a court process or even arbitration.

Think Divorce Mediation May Work for You?

Divorce is never easy. Thankfully, unless your soon-to-be former spouse is completely unwilling to work with you, divorce mediation can save you a ton of time and heartache.

On top of that, it allows both spouses to negotiate for an outcome that both of them are comfortable with. 

Do you think divorce mediation might be right for you and your spouse? We can help you get the most out it. Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you.

Laura E. Shapiro

Laura Shapiro is an award-winning Family Law Attorney with 40+ years of experience. Laura practices Family Law exclusively with her primary focus being divorce and child custody matters.

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