Certainly couples divorcing, whether they chose to mediate or not, are embarking on an unfamiliar path. It is a path that is most often chosen as the result of ongoing conflict and disappointment between the couple and seems full of unknown danger. Everyone has heard horror stories about divorce: it takes years to resolve and someone always gets the shaft while the other side wins. Unfortunately, the win/lose understanding of the divorce process persists even among those who are choosing divorce mediation.
However, there is no loser in mediation. Divorce mediation results in win-win solutions where both agree to the terms of the divorce they create. Whether the couple opts to mediate on their own or is referred as part of the widening mandatory mediation programs in the family courts, both spouses must voluntarily agree to any decision reached in mediation.
Mediated agreements are generally considered win-win. They are expressly the agreements that the couple decides works for them, and them alone. It may not be the “best” settlement possible for either side, with no concern for other person, as is the goal in a litigated divorce – but is the settlement that those who have to live with decide works for them, allowing the to move forward.
As a result, preparing to “win” divorce mediation is a misnomer. Clearly there are things that a person can do to make mediation as efficient and productive as possible. But there is no way to “lose” in divorce mediation other than by agreeing to things that you disagree with. Divorce mediation results in a settlement both spouse create and agree to.
Certainly is important to enter into mediation fully prepared. You do not have to have all the answers and it is expected that most couples have not resolved the terms of their divorce settlement or child custody agreement/parenting plan. The mediator will help you, as a couple, walk through all of the issues and reach specific agreements.
Prior to the initial mediation session, both spouses should individually:
- Gather and review current records of all financial accounts
- Complete, as much as possible, any preparation paperwork the mediator suggests or supplies
- Bring copies of pertinent documents to share with the mediator and your spouse
- Identify any specific issues or areas of conflict that cause anxiety about the divorce process or outcome. Determine what the best-case outcome or result is and how it could be written-up in the agreement. Write these issues and solutions down to refer to during mediation
- Practice stress reduction activities, to that you can enter and participate in the mediation with as little stress as possible.
Although there are no losers in divorce mediation, it is important to prepare to participate fully. Divorce mediation builds on areas of agreement and is highly efficient – the spouses are the experts. The mediator assists the couple in creating the best solution for their divorce. As a result, if a person is not prepared to participate they can feel overwhelmed by the decisions made.
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