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As a process to divorce, mediation has grown in popularity for several reasons. It’s significantly less costly than other assisted alternatives, it empowers couples to control their own destiny and make decisions that best serve them and their children (as opposed to relinquishing the control to attorneys, court masters, and judges), and it creates less emotional damage for all involved. On the other hand, it may not be the best solution when one of the parties is not able or willing to fully engage in the process. A properly-qualified mediator can work with a hesitant party to improve the chances for success. Nonetheless, you should consider six critical elements to a successful mediation.

Here Are Six Critical Elements For An Effective Divorce Mediation:

1. Readiness:

It is often the case that one spouse is way ahead of the other in calling it quits. If both spouses aren’t ready to dissolve the marriage, discuss the distribution of assets, or deal with custody issues then the process is crippled before it even gets started. To effectively mediate, both must be ready to move forward and not use mediation sessions to attempt to derail the divorce. Readiness also includes having emotions in check. Divorce is, indeed, a major life event that makes for strong emotions but these must be largely dealt with outside of divorce mediation sessions. 

If you are the reluctant spouse or know that you’re feeling too emotional to productively engage in divorce mediation, consider utilizing a divorce coach to help you address your concerns and issues until you feel ready. Beware, though, that If you stall the process for longer than your spouse can tolerate, he or she may hire an attorney and begin the litigation process—this may result in far greater expense and emotional damage.

2. Openness to Options:

A good mediator will educate the couple about alternatives to settlement options regarding asset division, support, and custody issues. She is an expert in divorce and is trained to address the pertinent issues. It’s good if you and your spouse have already had discussions around the key issues, but even better if you both enter the mediation process with an open mind about creative alternatives that might improve your situation.

3. Full Disclosure:

Your mediator can only incorporate the information you share with her. Key information includes what you envision as your needs and wants for your future apart as well as all income, assets and liabilities. Creative solutions to divorce settlements are born from an in-depth understanding of needs and concerns, also the available resources. If a mediator senses there are trust issues, she’ll terminate the divorce mediation process and suggest you consider litigation, instead.

4. The Right Mediator:

Not all divorce mediators are alike! Many family law attorneys have turned to mediation as a way to boost their incomes in a competitive marketplace but they aren’t really committed to a non-adversarial approach. If you consider a mediator attorney, you need to ask them if they exclusively mediate or whether they also litigate—you want someone who is committed to a less adversarial practice and not just looking for a way to boost revenues. Also, you want someone with expert training in the divorce issues that are most important to the both of you. Lawyers are experts in the law but not necessarily in divorce finances and custody. If your primary issues are financial, then consider a divorce financial expert, i.e., a mediation trained Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®). Even better, a CDFA® who is also a CDC Certified Divorce Coach® who can help you make decisions that are consistent with your values and tackle some of the emotional issues getting in the way of a settlement that will serve both of you well into the future. If there are custody issues as well, a CDFA® mediator can incorporate a parenting specialist into the divorce mediation process or, if necessary, assist you in a collaborative divorce that incorporates parenting, financial, and emotional specialists in addition to attorneys for both sides (but beware, collaborative divorce can get quite expensive relative to mediation).

5. Sufficient Time:

Don’t let anyone rush you into an agreement you’re not ready for. Yes, in litigation there’s a clock running, but not in mediation! Take time to consider your options and make a decision that you won’t regret in the future! 

6. Attorney Review of Your Settlement:

Once you are satisfied with the agreements you’ve made with one another and have a draft of a Settlement Agreement, you should pay an attorney a few hundred dollars to ensure your Agreement is sound and can’t be legally challenged in the future. Once processed, it’s difficult and costly to challenge your Agreement, so make sure it’s thoroughly reviewed before you sign anything.

Starting the Divorce Mediation Process

Mediation is a great process for divorce and one you won’t regret if you make sure you’re ready and ensure you have the right mindset, fully disclose your finances and what’s important to you, allow yourself the time needed to make decisions you won’t later regret, have chosen an ideal mediator, and do a legal review before you finalize your Settlement.

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