Tuesday, May 7, 2013

7 Easy Tips for Successful Divorce Mediation




Here in North Texas, if you have a contested divorce or other family law issue, you will almost certainly be required to go to mediation before you go to a trial.  The main reason for that is that most cases (about 90%) will settle in mediation and that saves time for the courts.

If you get a divorce in Fort Worth/Tarrant County, you should expect to go to mediation.  Your divorce lawyer will attend with you.  Most attorneys have done a number of mediations and can easily explain what to expect and how to prepare.  In case you have concerns about the process and want some additional information, here are some tips for making the most of your mediation experience.

1.     Use your mediator to gain a different perspective.  The mediator is neutral and doesn't represent you or your spouse.  The mediator undoubtedly has a lot of experience in mediation and in family law.  Feel free to ask questions of the mediator.  Be sure to listen to suggestions and consider any questions or criticisms raised by the mediator.  You can get some new and different approaches from a mediator.  Having a three-way conversation with your attorney and your mediator can open up your mind to new ideas.

2.     Aim for solutions, not winning.  You may have already figured out that there are no real winners in litigation.  Decisions, deals and compromises are made, but there's a cost to everything.  That applies to both sides.  Stopping the fighting can feel like a win.  Don't keep score, just try to find a solution that works for everyone.

3.     Be flexible.  Don't come locked in to a specific plan.  I had a 5 minute mediation that ended because the wife insisted that she would only accept 80% of all the assets.  The husband obviously wouldn't agree.  The case was tried later (about $50,000 in attorneys fees later).  The judge gave the wife 60%, which was what the husband offered at mediation.  Unless you just want to continue to burn money on attorney fees, be willing to look at new and different solutions.  You can't be forced into agreement, but you can  usually find something you like.

4.      Listen.  You should pay attention and respectfully consider what your spouse says.  There is time to think about what the other side is saying.  Your attorney will probably have some suggestions, and the mediator will have some comments and questions about possible settlement terms.  Take your time.

5.     Come prepared.  Bring all the relevant records.  Get updates.  Have a spreadsheet with values.  Think about the issues in advance and consider different ways to solve the problems.  If you need to gather more information or documents, do so ahead of time.  If you need to talk with someone, go ahead and do it before the mediation.

6.     Don't try to discuss the difficult issues with your spouse in advance. Generally, you are in this situation because you can't reach agreements.  Sometimes, preliminary discussions just make the situation worse.  People start to think there's no hope of reaching a settlement because they couldn't do it on their own without the mediators and attorneys.  You can make things much worse by trying to save time and money by negotiating on your own.

7.    Remember to relax.  This is a slow process which has time for reflection.  Don't be in a rush.  There will be some down time, but I can tell you the mediator is using the time for your benefit.  Take it easy. You don't have to make instant decisions. You can think about proposals and carefully look into new ideas.  This is a lot less stressful than being in court.

Mediation is a great and efficient process for settling divorces.  Divorce courts will almost always order you to attend mediation, so plan on it and take advantage of the opportunity to reach an acceptable agreement.



14 comments:

Bgdlawyers said...

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Legal Mediation said...

Great post! Been reading a lot about different legal mediation situations. Thanks for the info!

Sam Gibson said...

Dick, I really agree with tip #4 - "Listen". I have a good friend who's going through a divorce, it's causing a great deal of stress on both sides. I think if both parties were to try and really listen, a great deal of the headaches might be minimized. I hope they both come out of this OK. http://www.markshenken.com.au

Felicity Sanderson said...

Aiming for solutions is so essential! Perspective is everything and a mediator and a lawyer can help you see what's best. I've also been looking into how you can get custody. What are some ways you can make sure you get custody? By the way, this was a valuable site!
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Gary Birtles said...

I really like tip number one. I've never thought about a mediator like that. I can see how a mediator can offer great insight that you may not realize. It is something to pay attention to. http://www.heritagelawgroup.com/family_law.html

Anonymous said...

My sister is going through a divorce with custody battle right now and she isn't sure how to go about it. Our whole family is trying to help her as much as possible and so that's why I'm looking up tips. I really like the tip of aiming for a solution instead of winning. I also think it's important to relax. Thanks for the article. http://www.adoptionattorneyyork.com/Family-Law-Divorce-Attorney-York-PA.html

Kelsey Higgins said...

Your second tip is a great thing to remember! When my sister got divorced a few years ago, she found herself in constant stalemates with her ex-husband when trying to come to an agreement on anything! Both of them were constantly trying to come out of the divorce victorious, but it wasn't until they had dragged the divorce out for much longer than necessary and they both had constant migraines from stress that they were finally able to put their pride aside and work towards an agreement. If they had gone into the divorce looking for compromise, it would have been dealt with in a much more efficient and much less stressful manner. http://www.progressivemediation.net/services.html

Sergio Freddson said...

I agree: although it's a difficult time, there are some unbiased people who can help. Having a mediator during a divorce is extremely important for this reason. If you don't have any unbiased source, you're likely to make a poor decision when under that much emotional stress. Thanks for sharing these tips with us! http://www.rdflaw.com/areasofpractice/bankruptcy.html

Sergio Freddson said...

I agree: although it's a difficult time, there are some unbiased people who can help. Having a mediator during a divorce is extremely important for this reason. If you don't have any unbiased source, you're likely to make a poor decision when under that much emotional stress. Thanks for sharing these tips with us! http://www.rdflaw.com/areasofpractice/bankruptcy.html

Jason shwartz said...

I think that being able to be flexible really sounds like a great thing to remember when working with divorce. Something that really sounds interesting as well is that you mentioned to make sure to look for solutions not a win. I never would have considered a divorce as a win lose situation. Thank you for taking the time to share. http://www.jeffdragonlaw.com/divorce.php

Dave Thompson said...

These tips sound like they would help make a divorce hearing a lot easier. Like your tip to just relax. It sounds so simple, but relaxing and not getting all worked up about every little thing can be the best thing for your case. Thank you for posting all of these easy and great tips. http://www.crumptonandcollins.net/injury-family--criminal-law

Seth Ashford said...

Thanks for sharing these tips on divorce mediation! I definitely agree that it is important to focus on settling the matter peacefully. If you are always focused on getting the most for yourself, then you will be less open to compromise. That will just make mediation a lot more difficult for you and your ex. http://www.littlefallslaw.com

Nora Moore said...

That is a good idea to talk things over with the mediator. As much as it can feel like it in a divorce, it's not all about winning, so it's nice to get that neutral opinion. It will save a lot of time if you keep an open mind and aren't too stubborn. That may be hard, but I'll try to remember that when we get to that point. http://www.bhtampa.com/practice-areas/family-law/divorces/

Anonymous said...

I didn't know that about 90% of divorces settle in mediation. It seems like that can be a much more efficient way than going to court. I think a few other states have a similar law requiring you to go to mediation first. You brought up a great point how the mediator can help you gain a different perspective since they don't represent either party exclusively. http://www.gwwlaw.com/practice-areas/family-law/