Up to 80% of divorce cases that go to mediation end successfully with agreements reached throughout the process. Nonetheless, you need to prepare extensively for this process if you want to be successful in resolving issues in your case. Here are some tips on how to ready yourself for mediation.
Mediation Can Result in a Settlement Under the Right Conditions
Beginning mediation can be a milestone en route to a divorce settlement. It means that both you and the other spouse are at least committed to talking and resolving some thorny issues. While mediation can be arduous and difficult, it eventually yields benefits for many divorcing couples. Although nobody will ever mistake mediation for an entirely pleasant experience, it is a valuable way to keep your case out of court when an agreement is not easily reachable at first.
Select the Best Mediator for Your Case
Choosing the right mediator is critical to the success of your proceeding. Not all divorce mediators are created equal. Two major discriminators between mediators are experience and approach. You need someone who knows the process well and can help move the two parties towards a settlement. The wrong mediator can actually harm your case. At Lawrence Law, we have an intimate knowledge of the process because we have been mediators ourselves. Jeralyn Lawrence and Rita Aquilio frequently mediate cases.
This is not to say that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to choosing a mediator. Sometimes, you may need a mediator who can facilitate an open conversation between the two parties where they can reach a deal. Other times, you might need someone with a “take control” style who can actively move the parties towards a settlement. The best kind of mediator is one who can read the situation and adjust accordingly. Review the mediator and their qualifications before you select them because you are putting quite a bit of trust in that person.
Work on Your Own Communication
The biggest thing that you can do to prepare for mediation is try to work on yourself to get to the point where you can compromise. It is natural to have hurt feelings and anger in a divorce, especially if you were not the person who initiated the process. Nonetheless, mediation is the time to put these feelings aside for the sake of reaching an agreement.
You will eventually heal from the divorce and move past things in time. Nobody is saying that you must do all of this work before the mediation session. What you should try to do is hit the pause button on any feelings of bitterness because they can get in the way of a settlement negotiation. Forgiveness may come later, but you need to try to separate feelings and ego from the hard work that you need to do at mediation. With that in mind, you should do some work beforehand to understand what your triggers are when dealing with your ex.
Everyone will need to compromise on their initial position at mediation. Coming into the sessions with the recognition that you will not get everything that you want will go a long way. After all, that is why you are investing the money in a divorce attorney and a mediator as well as the time that these negotiations take.
Formulate a Strategy for the Mediation Session
Next, you and your family law attorney will need to prepare for the sessions. You always need to go into a mediation session with a plan and strategy. First, you should have a conversation with your divorce lawyer, who is experienced in the mediation process. Your attorney will prepare for the session by telling you what will happen during mediation. Knowing what to expect may put you more at ease during the process.
While you have your initial positions, these are going to change as the other party presents their side. Accordingly, you need to know what your bottom line is going into the session and remain flexible in your position
This means that you have decided ahead of time where you are prepared to compromise. Every mediation session is a give-and-take. Therefore, you should know how much your personal give is. You and your divorce lawyer need to have this conversation ahead of time, so you can decide what you might offer as a compromise so that you can receive things that are important to you. Just know that not everyone will get everything that they want, so be prepared ahead of time to negotiate.
Decide What Is Important to You
Part of preparation includes setting your priorities. Of course, money and financial matters are important. Without an equitable settlement, you may not have the money that you need to live. Nonetheless, if custody issues play a part in your mediation, you should resolve to put these matters ahead of everything else. The children should always come first. You should rule out ahead of time any proposed solution that makes a trade between money and custody issues. You should prepare yourself to make some tough choices in areas where you may not have wanted to compromise.
Gather Your Necessary Documents
In addition to preparing mentally and assessing your negotiating position, you need to also make sure that you are organized. This means that you take physical steps to get ready such as gathering all of your relevant documentation. This includes:
- Several recent pay stubs
- At least your past two tax returns
- A list of all your assets along with account statements
- Court filings in your case
In a mediation session, time is money. Not only are you paying for your family lawyer, but the mediator also costs money. The quicker you can get down to business and minimize delays, the more cost-effective your mediation session will be for both sides. Your funds are limited, and it is better not to have to waste time looking for paperwork or not have a key document that you need.
Know When You Need to Walk Away
In addition, you should also know the point at which you would walk away from the mediation. In general, these forms of alternative dispute resolutions are a good thing for the divorce process. It gives you a chance to avoid the costs and the tension associated with litigation. However, you should not have unlimited patience if the other ex-spouse shows that they are not serious about reaching an agreement. At some point, divorce litigation may be an unfortunate necessity.
While most mediation processes end up being successful, some can end up being fruitless. At the same time, you are paying for the costs of this proceeding. Accordingly, you do not have endless time and money to expend if the other party is not serious about an agreement. If you find that you are the only one compromising, it is a sign that perhaps the mediation process is not the right one for your divorce case, and you should be a part of the very small minority of people who end up in a hearing in front of a judge.
A family law attorney can help guide you before and during your mediation session. Contact Jeralyn Lawrence, a family lawyer at the New Jersey firm of Lawrence Law. Call our Watchung and Red Bank divorce attorneys at 908-645-1000 to schedule your initial consultation.