Are We Good Candidates for Mediation?
Many people inquire about mediating their divorce and usually their motivation is to keep the costs low. No one wants to spend hard-earned money on a divorce and when you meet with an attorney and learn that legal fees are incurred for “time spent” – whatever THAT might mean – you can’t help but wonder if there is a more affordable way to divorce
The reality, however, is that mediation is only more affordable if you can reach an agreement. Nobody wants to waste time and money spinning their wheels uselessly. So before you choose mediation, you must first decide if you can mediate. Here are some things to consider:
- Our case is easy. No, it isn’t. No one’s divorce is “easy.” There are always twists and quirks that arise and you have no idea what they might be, because you aren’t knowledgeable in accounting, or financial law, or real estate transfers, or child development, or IRS regulations, or all of any number of potential roadblocks. Your mediator is. You might have an overall idea of what is “fair” but don’t expect your mediator to just write down your ideas, pat you on the head and say “well done.” You’re hiring a mediator, not a scrivener and you need to be prepared to get some education here.
- Our case is too complex to mediate. Many families face complexity. It could be a detailed financial portfolio, or an ongoing health crisis, or a relocation to a different state. It may feel insurmountable to you because you’re in the middle of it. Your mediator will break these issues down into manageable pieces, so that you can begin by working around the edges and making small agreements, and that will break down the big pieces of your case into manageable bites that you will successfully mediate.
- My spouse is very controlling/charming/manipulative. Again, not really. Your mediator is trained to work through personality issues and relationship dynamics. If one of you is not a talker, be prepared to be drawn into the conversation. If one of you is the talker, be prepared for some push-back. That’s the mediator’s job – to make sure everyone at the table can speak and is listened to. Sorting through power and control issues is part of the process.
- We’re on a tight budget. Sounds about right. Mediation is generally a pay-as-you-go process. Your budget will control how frequently we meet, and for how long. You will have sessions as your budget allows. Are you prepared to read financial documents on your own? Are you prepared to gather records for the group? Can you complete your financial affidavit? Are you willing to maintain a good perspective? Will you keep to the agreements you make? There are lots of things you can do to keep the process affordable. Your mediator doesn’t have to do the legwork to gather financial information, or chase you around for completed documents, or renegotiate the same agreement – these things are all within your control.
- Can we do this without legal representation? Of course. And each of you has the absolute right to retain review counsel who will work with you by the hour to prepare for a mediation session, if you wish, or to review the final affidavits and agreement to ensure you’ve dotted your legal i’s and crossed your legal t’s.
- How do I get my spouse to come to the office to start the mediation? This is your first opportunity to enter into a successful negotiation. If only one of you comes to the intake, your mediator will give you some ideas about how to talk about the mediation process to an uncertain spouse. It is not uncommon for one spouse to be further along emotionally and part of your mediator’s job is to make sure that each of you feels emotionally supported and respected.
- We just want what’s fair. Everyone does – but not everyone defines “fair” the same way. Fair is not always equal. Fair is not always, you go your way and I’ll go mine. Fair is what works for you each in light of your respective goals, concerns, dreams and hopes. Your mediator will spend some time with you to talk about these intangible pieces so that when we get down to negotiating, we reach a resolution that truly works for each of you.
Mediation is a supportive, personal process to ending a marriage and it’s a good option for many people. Take some time to think about the process and determine if you are good candidates to mediate your resolution.