What will you experience in Divorce Mediation?
Divorce Mediation is an adaptable and holistic approach to divorce; the common factors of dissolution are well-managed in a mediation setting. Almost any divorce case is suitable for mediation, and the parties can successfully resolve their issues while avoiding the expense and emotional costs of litigation.
Most mediation processes go through a series of five stages—not necessarily in this order, and some of them may be repeated at various points during the mediation. Your own mediation process will be individualized to you and your family. The tone of your divorce is set by you and your spouse, and the specifics are unique to your family.
Following are the basics of what you are likely to experience when working with our professional mediation team.
In this first stage, our team of mediator(s) will work with you and your spouse to lay a foundation for the process. You each have the opportunity to give the mediator background information about your situation. Depending on how well you and your spouse communicate, and what the issues are in your case, the mediator(s) will suggest an approach that will optimize the chances of reaching an agreement. You will assess the issues on which you and your spouse agree or disagree, helping you to work together on an agenda for the rest of the mediation process.
In order for mediation to be successful, you, your spouse, and the mediator(s) must be fully informed about the facts of your case. This is the information-gathering stage. Sometimes it begins during the first session; sometimes it starts after that session. If the information that you and the mediator need is unavailable or in dispute, the mediator will try to help you find ways to find the details or determine what is correct. For example, you might need the policy number and details of a life insurance policy. If you can’t locate your copy of the policy, the mediator will suggest ways to get this information, such as contacting the broker who sold you the policy or writing to the insurance company.
During this stage, the mediator may first begin to discuss the general legal rules that may apply to your case. This can include the family laws dictating how a judge would divide your assets and debts, how child custody and child support would be decided, when and how maintenance / spousal support can be ordered, and laws dealing with related issues like taxes and life and health insurance. This general legal information will help you decide how to approach the issues in your case.
Our mediator(s) will also ask you and your spouse to submit financial documents such as tax returns and bank and mortgage statements. As you progress through the process, the mediator will summarize the information being assembled. If you agree that additional research is needed or a neutral expert is to be consulted, that will go on a “to do” list.
This second stage of the mediation will continue, as you do the “homework” needed to obtain additional information, statements, and appraisals. If you feel that you already know enough about your situation, and have definite ideas on how to work out a settlement, you may find yourself impatient with this stage, and anxious to move ahead with the negotiations. Even though you may feel anxious to move quickly, our team’s job is to make sure that both you and your spouse have all the facts and information you need to negotiate an agreement that is legally binding and that you won’t regret having signed.
In the framing stage, the mediator(s) helps each spouse outline that person’s reasons for wanting certain outcomes in the settlement. These reasons consist of individual concerns, priorities, goals, and values. They are often referred to by mediators as “needs and interests.” Identifying interests helps to frame the core goal of the mediation: our team works hard to find a resolution of the issues that successfully addresses each spouse’s most important interests. In most divorces, many issues need to be examined in light of each spouse’s interest. These include property and debt division, child custody, child support, and maintenance / spousal support.
Often, spouses’ interests will overlap. This is especially likely if the interests involve a concern for other people, such as children. When an overlap like this occurs, it increases the likelihood of finding settlement options that address their common concerns. Of course, it’s not always possible to negotiate an agreement that fully satisfies all of the interests of the disputing parties. In divorce, some interests may need to be compromised when resources must now be divided between two households.
Our team helps each party focus on identifying and addressing each person’s most important needs and interests, so the resulting compromises will be ones that both spouses can live with going forward.
Most couples prefer to conduct the framing stage in separate sessions, to better prepare you for the next stage: negotiation. Other times, a joint session is preferable. Either way is effective, although separate sessions make the mediation process take a bit longer because anything important that is discussed will also be discussed with the other spouse.
Once our team has helped the spouses frame the issues and interests clearly, it is time to negotiate a settlement that works for both parties. This usually begins with an exploration of possible options. With the help of our mediator(s), spouses discuss and evaluate the options, until eventually, they narrow down the options to the ones that work best for both spouses. Getting to the final combination of options will involve compromises and concessions on both sides
As mediators, we emphasize the problem-solving aspect of negotiation at this stage of the process. The problem to be solved is finding settlement options that address each spouse’s most important interests as fully as possible. With this focus and professional support, you’ll be able to negotiate by trading off acceptable options instead of getting locked into zero-sum bargaining, where one spouse’s gain is the other spouse’s loss.
In the final stages, our team puts your settlement agreements into formalized legal formats. and circulated to both spouses for their review, feedback and approval. These documents summarize the essential points of agreements and are used as the formal settlement agreement that is filed with the court as part of your uncontested divorce case.
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Whether you’re contemplating a divorce, have already started the process, or are far into the proceedings, do you wish you had someone to share with you the inside scoop on how to save money, time, and emotional energy on your divorce?
Our team is available for a complimentary consultation to discuss the many scenarios, options and implications of separation or divorce, via telephone or videoconference during this time. Feel free to get in touch with us; we are here for you!