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Mediation and Divorce: Often Times a Better Alternative

When preparing for divorce mediation, if both parties agree to mediate, you have already won when it comes to your divorce.  This is especially true if you have children.  While you and your spouse may disagree on many things and may be facing one of the most challenging times in your lives, you both have made the proactive choice to avoid the unnecessary devastation of going to court.

The following are a few tips about how to prepare for divorce mediation. These will assist you in to accomplishing your goals of keeping conflict low, reducing stress, saving a great deal of money on legal fees, maintaining your privacy, and protecting your children from the harm caused by a divorce war. Not to mention, never setting foot in a courtroom.

1. Find a Qualified Divorce Mediator

      The most important consideration in choosing a family mediator is that you trust him or her to guide you through the process. The issues you cover in mediation will be personal and sensitive. There may be high emotions coupled with complicated financial issues. If you have children, there will be deeper issues regarding time sharing, decision making and communication. Your mediator should be someone you feel comfortable with through your experience reaching agreements.

      Trusting your mediator also means having confidence in that person’s ability as a professional. Training and certification in dispute resolution more likely demonstrates that your mediator has the knowledge and skill to help you mediate, and also demonstrates the intention of your mediator to focus on this area. To that end, it is very important to choose a mediator that has completed the requisite mediation training.  The issues and considerations in divorce mediation are different than another other mediation and very different than divorce litigation. A lawyer or retired judge who mediates “sometimes” without having obtained actual mediation training or certification will likely provide you less experience and effectiveness.

      Research mediators online. Find out if they have completed the forty (40) hour mediation training – at a minimum.  Learn if they charge a flat-fee, or bill hourly like litigation attorneys. Most importantly, meet them in person to see if it is a good fit and ask them about their mediation and arbitration experience.

      2. Organize Your Financial Information

      Your mediator should help you gather information that will be brought with you to your mediation meetings. This “voluntary disclosure” process is as simple as identifying your assets, debts, and income information, and bringing in statements to verify the information.

      Experienced mediators will provide you with a simple, comprehensive form with categories for you to fill in, and documents to bring with you. You will each fill in your bank account information, retirement accounts, real estate, vehicles, stocks, timeshares and any other assets you may have. You’ll also identify your credit cards, loans, and other debts. Finally, you’ll verify your income.

      Compare this to litigation, where you both endure a “formal legal discovery” process. The process can escalate conflict, drag on for long periods of time, and cost tens of thousands of dollars.

      3. Think About Your Interests, Not Your Positions

      Making “demands” and fighting over positions is something that your attorneys can do for you in court — and it can (at least seem) to last forever. In the end, you will both wind up losing when you battle through your divorce.  In mediation, you’ll focus on what you want and need and why you want and need those things. You don’t have to agree with the other person about their wants and needs.  Understanding your own interests and hearing your spouse’s interests is a game changer in ultimately reaching agreements. Many times, you realize that on some issues, you actually have similar interests. When that happens, your mediator can help you come up with creative agreements that satisfy you both.

      Unlike the traditional litigated divorce process that is decided in court by a judge, mediation lets you and your former spouse maintain control of your separate futures — and maintain control over your children’s future and each of your relationship with them.  By approaching mediation with a willingness (though for many it can be quite difficult) to work together to find resolutions on child-related issues that work for everyone, you solve problems and create an opportunity to be healthier co-parents. The attorneys at Lasiter & Jackson, PLLC are certified mediators.  Call our office to discuss if and why mediation may be a better alternative to resolving your family court matters.

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