Many couples choose divorce mediation because it can be cheaper, quicker and less adversarial than litigation. But it is not for everyone. For divorce mediation to work, couples need to be able to be civil to each other. They also have to be willing to compromise to reach an agreement. Sometimes a divorce coach or financial advisor can help the mediation along. However, when there is an imbalance of power in the relationship, collaborative divorce is a better idea. Divorce mediation is also not likely to work if one spouse has told significant lies during the marriage, betrayed the other, or threatened physical violence. Finally, for victims of domestic abuse, it’s not an option.
Treat each other with respect and be willing to compromise
Being civil and willing to compromise means that you treat your spouse with respect and abide by the rules of divorce mediation. This includes full disclosure of all of your assets and debts. Some people enter mediation with a set idea of what they want and try to bully or coerce their spouse into agreeing. This is not negotiating in good faith and the mediation will stall.
You have to be able to trust your spouse with your children
When one parent does not trust the other with the children alone, he or she usually refuses to compromise about visitation. Mediation will not work when this happens either. If you are concerned about your children spending time with your spouse because of substance abuse, erratic behavior, or another good reason, your case belongs in court. A judge can order an evaluation to decide if visitation should be supervised. And if the reason is not a good one, you may need to reconsider your position.
Get help from a professional divorce coach or financial advisor
Sometimes a divorce coach or financial advisor can help divorce mediation along by helping one or both spouses prepare. You may be opposed to the divorce or feel too hurt to sit down with your spouse in mediation. In that case, a divorce coach could help you process some of your emotions before you agree to meet. Or if you do not know enough about your finances to begin negotiating, a financial advisor can be helpful. He or she will assess your current finances and determine your financial needs for the future.
Consider collaborative divorce if one spouse makes decisions without the other
Divorce mediation does not work when there is an imbalance of power in the marriage. For example, one spouse may have most of the assets in his or her name and control the finances without regard to the other person’s needs. In this case, a better option than divorce mediation is collaborative divorce, where each spouse has an attorney. Collaborative divorce is another divorce process that keeps your case out of court and in your own hands. The difference is that each spouse has a lawyer looking out for his or her best interests as they work out the terms of a settlement.
Try to reach a fair settlement
You must be able to see your spouse’s point of view in mediation. If there has been a betrayal like an affair or significant lies, it may be very hard for the injured spouse to accept the other person’s perspective. Both spouses must also want to come to a reasonably fair settlement. Many people who have been betrayed in a marriage want their spouses to be punished by losing custody or giving up assets. But it’s not a good idea for negotiations to be dictated by the couple’s emotions as the marriage ends.
Finally, divorces involving domestic violence or threats of violence do not belong in divorce mediation. Victims of domestic abuse can experience trauma just from being in the same room as their abuser.
Find out about collaborative divorce and litigation before making a decision
There are many benefits to divorce mediation. It can reduce the negative impact of divorce on children. Parents who can work out an agreement with a mediator reduce the conflict that their children witness and co-parent more effectively. But the conditions have to be right for it to work. Collaborative divorce, which also focuses on reducing conflict and problem-solving, is a good alternative. Consult with more than one attorney, or a firm that handles other ways to get divorced, before you decide which process is best for you.