Most experts agree that divorce mediation is a better option compared to divorce litigation. Divorce with the help of a mediator is often 1) cheaper, 2) faster, 3) less stressful, 4) have better outcomes, and 5) avoids the need for court appearances.
But what actually happens in these mediation meetings? First of all, the actual content of each meeting will be different because each couple has different issues to consider. Generally, you can expect that a mediation session resolves issues in a business-like manner. Emotions such as hurt, fear, anger, and guilt do not play a part in how decisions are made.
It may seem “cold” to approach divorce as a business transaction, but in reality, at the very basic level, divorce is a dissolution of a contract. A marriage may be filled with love, hate, and a slew of other emotions. But during divorce, things go much more smoothly if you leave the emotions out of the equation. And that’s exactly what divorce mediators do: they help you come to an agreement on the custody of children, the division of property, and the value of child/spousal support.
The first mediation session is often about the children. During the 2-3 hour session, you will create a parenting plan where you establish:
– physical and legal custody of the children,
– who will be with the children during holidays, school breaks, birthdays,
– which school the children will attend
– social activities and school activities permitted,
– how/when children will be transported and exchanged,
– and guidelines on how disputes will be resolved.
The subsequent mediation session(s) are for the purpose of sorting-out the finances. This can take one or two 2-3 hr sessions. Before the meetings begin, both parties must provide a complete list of their assets, debts, incomes, and expenses. “Full financial disclosure” requires that you be truthful and accurate; you can be held in contempt of court if you lie. Once the financial situation of both parties are available for analysis, the mediator will go through these issues:
– distribution of marital property (house, car, bank accounts, retirement plans, etc)
– child support
– spousal support
– medical insurance, life insurance
– children’s college savings
– post-divorce taxation
– and other financial and estate issues.
It is the mediator’s job to guide you through these decisions and give you strategies on how disputes can be resolved. Ultimately, however, it is the responsibility of the divorcing individual to make the decision. Sometimes the divorcing parties may hire an external specialist to help them with specifics. For example, one might hire a financial analyst to help calculate how stocks and investments can be divided equitably.