Mediation is often a less expensive, less acrimonious way to get through the dissolution of your marriage . If you and your soon-to-be ex have both agreed that it is time to divorce, and are reasonably like-minded, and if there are no mitigating factors such as substance abuse, physical, or sexual abuse, mediation might be a good path to travel.
The main difference between mediation and divorce is that in a mediation there is a neutral third-party facilitator called a mediator, who helps couples negotiate an acceptable divorce agreement but, unlike a judge, cannot make decisions for them.
In court, your lawyer functions as your advocate. They fight for your position. Many parties to mediation do retain an attorney, but that attorney functions solely in an advisory role in mediation. Both parties work together towards an outcome that they are satisfied will work for them.
The settlement that couples obtain through the mediation process on these issues are reduced to a written agreement. That written agreement is then signed by both parties and is binding. Just because it’s friendlier, doesn’t mean it’s any less powerful. You and your spouse will be held to the terms of the agreement and if you break that agreement, you can wind up in court.
If you decide that mediation is the way you’re going, there are some important things you’ll need to remember. Mediation is a negotiation between you and your soon-to-be ex. You will be expected to play nice and fair because you’re expected to come up with the solutions yourselves. The mediator is there to simply help move things along. This isn’t some courtroom drama where you and your hubby are going to be sniping at one another across a large conference table. No half-full glasses of water will be tossed and no one is going to stomp out in a huff. If you can’t see yourself acting with civility, mediation might not be for you.
If you and your ex are on the same page about most things and you do decide to opt for mediation, here are some good things to remember.
Always Be Prepared:
There’s a reason that the Boy Scouts have this as their motto. In a divorce mediation, being prepared can reduce the overall hours that it takes to come to agreement between parties and, therefore, reduce the overall cost of the mediation. You and your soon-to-be ex already know a great deal in terms of what will be negotiated during the mediation. Real estate, assets, debt, perhaps a family business, custody - all of these things are on the table. If you can reach agreement about some of these things beforehand and present it to the mediator, then there will be less of the mediator’s time used for trying to broker an agreement between the two of you, and less of the mediator’s time means less money out of everyone’s pocket.
Understanding your legal rights before starting the mediation can be immensely helpful. It helps to manage your expectations, which will help you better formulate your strategy. People often consult with an attorney prior to mediation in order to come into the mediation with a tighter grasp on what they are and aren’t entitled to. If you go in prepared to negotiate for something you’re not legally entitled to -- well, you’re wasting everyone’s time.
Be Nice and Play Fair:
Grandma always said that you’ll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar, and she was right. If you’ve agreed to mediation, it’s because you think you and your soon-to-be ex can find some mutually agreeable solution. To that end, being aggressive and/or obnoxious isn’t going to get you anywhere. The mediator is there to help you come to agreement. The mediator is not a judge. He or she cannot make a decision for you, like a judge can. So, if you’re thinking that the mediator is going to order your soon-to-be ex to do something that you know he is opposed to, it’s not going to happen. The mediator is there to help the two of you find an agreement, not fulfill your wild revenge fantasies.
Hostility and offensive statements are likely to work against you in mediation. While you need to be frank and assertive, you should be careful not to introduce unnecessary barriers to settlement. Think of it this way: You are trying to make it easy for the other side to see things your way. In mediation, you are presenting your case, so to speak, not in order to persuade the mediator, but in order to persuade the other side, who, in this case, is your husband. That isn’t going to happen if you’re being unreasonable.
Which brings us to our next topic.
Choose Your Battles:
Choosing your battles is very closely related to being prepared and playing nicely. You both know what issues are going to be on the table, and you know precisely which are going to be the greatest areas of disagreement. This is where you really put your amicable aspirations to the test. This is where you learn to put your revenge fantasies aside for the greater good. Try to remember why you loved one another to begin with. Give up your choke hold on his golf bags. You don’t want them anyway. He does. Let them go. Model good behavior. Chances are, he’ll follow suit.
No matter how well you and your soon-to-be ex get along, as the song says, breaking up is hard to do. Not everything has to be a world war, though. Working things out together through mediation can help set the tone for a more harmonious future.