What Is Mediation?
When people think of divorce, they often think of courtroom scenes with angry spouses battling each other through their lawyers. That’s hard on the spouses–the stress can be enormous–and if there are children in the marriage, the stress and anger can trickle down to them, too. There’s another way to approach working through a divorce that may result in less antagonism and more negotiation, compromise, and collaboration–and potentially, less stress and hard feelings when the divorce is finalized. That approach is mediation.
Mediation involves an impartial third-party mediator who doesn’t represent either spouse. Instead, the mediator works with both parties, listening to each other and helping each side understand what the other is saying. It’s a process focused on collaborative negotiation, rather than contentious debate. Each side has a chance to make their wishes understood, knowing they’ll have the opportunity to be heard.
Mediation can be used for various aspects of divorce, such as property and asset division and working out details of parenting arrangements and support. These issues often cause heated feelings, and a mediator can help keep discussions calm and productive. The best outcome from working with a mediator is an agreement that satisfies both parties. The mediation agreement itself can be reviewed by each party’s own lawyer to ensure a full understanding of the rights and obligations being agreed to.
The value of mediation is not only in stress reduction, but also in helping couples agree more quickly, and that is often less expensive than long, drawn-out court cases. It also can lead to each spouse feeling more cooperative and involved.
What Are Tips for a Successful Mediation Process?
Mediation works best when the spouses are prepared for it and willing to collaborate holistically rather than digging in their heels around various issues. If a couple is interested in trying mediation, here are some tips that could help mediation be successful.
- Keep an open mind.
When spouses come into mediation sessions with a fixed mindset of “This is what I want, and I’m not giving in,” the process can stall out almost immediately. Instead, meeting with the mediator and telling them what each spouse would like to see, but being willing to consider the other person’s point of view and understanding this is a negotiation, can set the stage for success.
- Understand what negotiating involves.
Negotiation means both spouses are willing to compromise. That means each will be willing to give up something to get something else. The mediation could be less successful if one spouse refuses to cede anything.
- Be prepared.
Coming into mediation without having spent some time thinking about what each spouse wants or is willing to concede can waste time. It’s also valuable to think in terms of what will realistically work. For example, one spouse may think they want sole decision-making, but that spouse has a demanding job that forces them to travel frequently. They must understand that sole decision-making may not be in the child’s best interests. Preparing also includes identifying all property, assets, and debts that will be considered family property for division so discussion about division can proceed.
- Understanding needs vs. wants.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking someone “needs” something when, in fact, they “want” it instead. Needs and wants are different things. Coming into mediation with an understanding of the differences can help the process proceed more smoothly.
- Remain independent.
Sometimes, one spouse will want to bring a close family member or friend in to advise them. But that person isn’t going to be impartial and may offer well-intended advice that could compromise the collaborative nature of mediation.
- Keep accusations out of the discussion.
It can be tempting for either spouse to point fingers and claim the other spouse caused the marriage to dissolve. But that’s not helpful to anyone; it can cause the other spouse to shut down and refuse to continue negotiations. It can be difficult, but keeping the conversation calm and as unemotional as possible will be more productive.
- Be willing to listen.
This can be difficult. But, the strife that occurs during a divorce is frequently a result of either party refusing to listen. Or they listen but put their own interpretation on what’s being said. A mediator can help cut through the confusion and clarify what each spouse is saying. That includes not refusing to listen when the mediator is explaining the other spouse’s point of view.
- Be open to solutions not previously considered.
The mediator comes to the process without the history or the mindsets of the participants. They might have ideas neither spouse has thought of. For example, if a couple wants to share parenting time, the mediator might come up with a different arrangement to accomplish that than either spouse considered.
- Use an experienced divorce mediator.
Find a mediator who’s committed to the mediation process. A lawyer who’s willing to focus on collaboration and negotiation is critical. When the mediator’s goal is to lead the couple calmly and respectfully to a consensus that can avoid a court case, they’re focusing on the right things.
What Should I Do if I Need Help Mediating a Divorce?
Call Panko Collaborative Law & Mediation at 306-518-8107 for a consultation. All too often, people think divorce must be a contentious process. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Mediation can help a couple remain calmer and more collaborative. That, in turn, can help the divorce proceedings to go more smoothly–and more quickly.