In my last post I noted that January is referred to as “divorce month,” the time when the most people reach out to seek information about divorce. The first step is recognizing that there are different ways to divorce. Yes, there are different ways and your process choice may be by far your most important choice. Divorce need not be a War of the Roses. Last week I talked about Collaborative Divorce. Click here for more information about that process. This week I am going to talk about another alternative process, Mediation.
Here are the top 10 things to know about Mediation.
- A Mediator is a neutral third party that helps to facilitate discussion and problem solving. So when you think that you just can’t talk to that jerk you call your former spouse much less be in the same room with him or her, remember that is exactly why you need someone to Mediate these discussions. And reality check, if you have children, you are going to have to figure out how to interact with that “jerk” post-divorce. Might as well start now before emptying your bank accounts fighting in court.
- Mediation is focused on encouraging a business-like relationship; it is not therapy. Therapy focuses on processing your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. I often have clients who have participated in couples therapy to no avail and just do not know how they are to interact and communicate with their ex. Mediation focuses communication not on processing but on making concrete, future-based decisions. It is problem solving and goal-directed.
- Mediation is less costly. Instead of speaking through attorneys, like in the childhood game of telephone, the two of you are speaking directly to each other, facilitated by the Mediator. Yes you have attorneys to provide legal guidance and to draft your final agreements yet you are not paying for the drafting of motions, attendance at regular court status hearings, or costly discoveries of financial information. You may want to take your ex “to the cleaners” so to speak yet think of what you could do for yourself or your children with that money. If you are driven by the emotions associated with divorce such as anger, revenge, or resentment, it is time to work with a therapist or divorce coach to separate these emotions from your divorce process.
- Mediation focuses on your children and protects them from the conflict of divorce. Your co-parenting relationship is the number one factor that will impact how your children manage this transition. The parent-child relationships transcend divorce. A Mediator can help you set up boundaries and expectations for your co-parenting relationship, minimizing conflict. No matter how difficult it may be, your children are worth it.
- Mediation is confidential. In litigation, there is the filing of motions, formal discovery, and depositions, which all are public record. In Mediation you are working external to the court process and voluntarily exchanging all information, so you are able to keep your private family information private. Only your final agreement is filed with the court by an attorney.
- Mediation is less adversarial. The legal system is win-lose and focused on sides. Whereas Mediation is focused on working together to reach agreements that work for both of you. A Mediator will help you be future-focused rather than focused on “winning.”
- Mediation can provide a faster resolution. In Mediation you do not have to wait for a court date for decisions to be made. Since you are working together with one neutral person, you are able to set meetings and make decisions at your own pace.
- In Mediation, you get more personal attention. A Judge does not know you and your family. And your attorney may know you yet they do not know the other parent and are working from only one “side.” Since a Mediator works with both of you, again as a neutral, they are better able to learn about and understand your family dynamics.
- You maintain control in Mediation and can be more creative in your decisions. Again, you know your family best. Do you really want someone who does not know you or your family to be making decisions for you? In Mediation, you make your own decisions and therefore you are able to make decisions that work for your family, rather than a one-size-fits-all model.
- Mediation decreases the likelihood of post-divorce conflict. Both of you will most likely have to compromise yet since you are making the decisions, rather than decisions being imposed on you, you have more “skin in the game” so to speak and are therefore more likely to abide by the agreements you make. This can lesson the amount of post-divorce conflict between you and even lessen the likelihood that you will return to court.
Mediation is not for everyone. If someone will not voluntarily disclose assets, you may need court intervention. Or if domestic violence is present, working together may cause safety concerns and Mediation would not be appropriate. Yet if the primary areas of conflict are emotional, it may be time to set aside those emotions and focus on making decisions in a less adversarial manner to minimize the emotional and financial impact of divorce on you and your children.