Knowledge Base

Preparing for Divorce Mediation 


February 1, 2016
Written by Lynne C. Halem

As an increasing number of couples turn to mediation as the process of choice for reaching divorce settlement, the media has sought different angles to attract readership.  Of late the media has indulged in peddling advice on how to “win in mediation.”  Here magazines and newspapers, not to mention social media, present personal accounts as well as professional advice on the tricks and tactics of  “using” mediation to one’s advantage. 

The irony of this approach is hard to ignore.  After all, the foundation of mediation is built on principles of neutrality and impartiality, not to mention that it is the mediator’s responsibility to create an environment in which problem solving can take place on a “level playing field.” 

While the parties in a union often do not possess equal ability (and may never be truly equal in that ability), to express their emotions or to deal with financial concepts, the mediator nonetheless must ensure that each party is able to understand the issues confronting them, as well as present and future implications of different solutions they are considering.    One-upmanship has nothing, but nothing, to do with mediation; indeed it is the very foundation of legal combat, a process that mediating couples are hoping to avoid.

If there is no room in the mediation process for victors, not to mention victims, preparation for the process cannot be centered on ways to be the "advantaged" party.   

Yet the question remains: Is there a way to prepare for mediation?  I would answer that the initial preparation is essentially one of attitude and approach.  Your willingness to experience the discomfort of being face-to-face in the same room, while confronting issues about which you might be on opposing sides, is the first step- and that is a big deal.   

The hardest part of mediation may well be agreeing to mediate.  In entering mediation, both parties must agree to participate in a problem-solving process dedicated to reaching an agreement that works for both parties and one that will serve as a “roadmap” for future decision-making.  As uncomfortable as that may seem at times, that is truly a big deal.

The Requirements

Overwhelming as all this may seem, the mediator should be the couple’s guide in helping you and your spouse to address all the requirements in a manageable way.  And again, a good mediator will create a process to help you both construct different scenarios, and analyze the ramifications of each, for all involved parties.

In divorce mediation, you will be embarking on a process in which each party’s present and future well-being has merit and needs to be considered in the structuring of agreements and terms for those agreements.  The mediation process is based on notions of fairness and the balancing of needs and concerns. 

There are no winners or losers.  There is no victory party. 

Yet - and "yet" is a big deal - in choosing to mediate, there is the satisfaction of knowing that you have been fair to yourself, to your spouse,  and to your children. 

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