I strongly believe in the benefits of choosing mediation for your divorce but it's also important to understand the challenges and prepare for those. The decisions made in mediation can significantly impact your life for years to come. With that in mind, it can be easy to become overwhelmed during the session if you are not adequately prepared. Likewise, you can make agreements that may not be in your best interest if you are simply tired and worn out from the mediation. These simple mediation strategies can help you get what you want from your divorce settlement.
Spend some quiet time thinking about what you want and what you need. Write your thoughts down on paper and read it aloud. This process helps you organize your thoughts, identify your priorities and set realistic expectations. Take this paper with you to mediation. If you are represented by legal counsel, give your attorney a copy.
Analyze strengths and weakness on both sides of the table. In other words, identify the strengths and weaknesses of the person on the other side of the table, but don’t forget to think about your own. What are your soft spots that might make you vulnerable during the negotiations? Determine what you can do to improve your confidence in areas you feel weak. For example, if you are not confident in discussing finances, meet with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) prior to your mediation session. A CDFA can provide you with the financial education you need to be confident in your financial negotiations.
It is very easy for emotions to get triggered during a mediation session. Keep in mind that your reactions do not need to be your responses. Monitoring and controlling your emotions can be a challenge. However, doing so can help you reach your goal – arriving at a successful outcome that gives you what you want and what you need.
Remember that every resolution needs to start somewhere. Do not allow yourself to become so focused on the inadequacy of a first offer that you can't continue the conversation in a productive manner. Many times a party to mediation will react strongly to a first offer. Reactions might include comments like “That’s outrageous. We’re never going to agree on anything,” or “That’s an insult. I’m out of here.” A first offer is a starting point and should elicit a thoughtful, strategic response rather than an emotional outburst that derails the potential of a mediation session.
Don’t agree if you are not fully ready to commit to your decision. If you are not confident that the offer being presented serves you well, don’t agree to it. Ask for a break or ask for the mediation to be continued another day. Give yourself time to think about the consequences of your decision and consult with a professional who can advise you on it if necessary.
There are many benefits to mediation - it's more cost-effective, efficient and less stressful than going to court. You also have significantly more control over the outcome. That said, it's important to take the time to you need in order to prepare so you can reach a favorable settlement. Your future can depend on it.