Once both spouses have agreed to divorce mediation, it’s important to keep a few things in mind as discussions progress. One of the best things about mediation is that, unlike litigation, it allows couples to maintain open communication while they make the best decisions for themselves and their children. However, because no judge or other decision-makers are involved, it’s even more important for the discussion to go smoothly for both parties. Here are a few tips for ensuring a successful divorce mediation process.
Keep Discussions Cordial
Divorce is indisputably an emotionally charged event; it can cause a lot of anger, bitterness, and stress both within the family and internally. It’s important for couples to work through those issues before they begin mediation. The mediation process is not about battling, fighting, or combativeness – it’s about collaborating and working together, even though it may be for the last time. Particular subjects will always be more difficult than others (division of assets, child custody) but it’s even more necessary then to stay polite and levelheaded. Doing so will improve the chances of a better outcome for everyone.
Be brutally honest throughout mediation; not just with your spouse and the mediator, but with yourself. The more open each spouse is about their situation and the events that transpired (and share the blame), the easier it is for the mediator to lead both to a successful resolution. Any information either party withholds could damage the situation even further.
Be Willing to Compromise
This is often one of the most difficult aspects of mediation. Both parties are bound to be 100% focused on what he or she wants out of the situation; it’s tempting to stick to bottom lines and must-haves, but this is rarely the best way to achieve a successful outcome. Mediation will be much easier to get through if both parties try to see things from the other’s point of view and stay open minded about the outcome. The process is about negotiation and fairness – not each person getting everything he or she wants out of it, and the goal should be to move forward.
Begin the negotiations with a reasonable offer and a clear plan, rather than coming forward with an extreme proposal that is more than likely going to get thrown out. If the other spouse makes a less-than-optimal counteroffer, try looking at the positive aspects of the offer and pick out which parts of it sound fair. It’s important for both parties to understand and acknowledge what the other says; outright, immediate dismissal often ends in no resolution at all.
Commit to Being a Good Listener
When both spouses in mediation have good listening skills (and refrain from interrupting and making personal attacks), settlement discussions stay effective and on track. Even empathizing with one another – as difficult as it may be – will be helpful, as many people become more cooperative if they’re feeling listened to. Both parties should do their best to listen and understand where the other person is coming from; compassion is essential to the mediation process.
If you and your spouse are interested in pursuing mediation, please contact Scott Levin and our highly trained staff to get started (858) 255-1321.