I asked a few of our former divorce mediation clients to share lessons learned about their divorce and mediation experience.
I asked them what, if anything, they would do differently to make things easier or more peaceful for their children.
And I also asked what advice they would give others who are preparing to divorce and want to keep things as peaceful, fair, child-focused and cost-effective as possible.
If you and your spouse are preparing to begin a divorce and have children, this is a great way to gain some valuable insights into what to do and what not to do.
P.S. – All of these people have given me permission to publish their answers, but because divorce mediation is a confidential process, I am only using their initials to protect their identities.
If you had your divorce to do all over again, what, if anything, would you do differently to make it easier or more peaceful for you and your kids?
We were fortunate that by the time we started our divorce process, it was still important to compromise in order to have the least negative effect on the kids and to hurt each other as little as possible.
We were able to at least work together on getting through such a painful process and I wouldn't change that.
My advice to others would be that overall, in divorce, no one really wins.
The best you can do is to try your hardest to compromise whenever possible so that you both come out of the process ready to heal and to move on.
Nothing - we were very lucky!
We did not have many issues on the table - so once we started the paperwork, our divorce and divorce mediation flowed smoothly!
When we decided to move towards a divorce, we made a pact that we would not drag our girls through any unnecessary drama.
We tried hard for years to work things out as husband and wife - that did not work.
Now we are great friends and even better parents! It all worked out!
I think my ex and I made the right decision to mediate our divorce.
No lawyers, no fighting with strangers involved...
We had the tools and questions that needed to be answered and were able to answer them honestly with our children in mind.
There isn't anything I'd do differently - mediation was a great tool for us to keep the divorce as amicable as possible.
We chose Equitable Mediation and it gave us a chance to work with an unbiased third party who had OUR best interests in mind – not lawyers who fight for each person individually.
We were able to come to an agreement fairly easily because Joe showed us the numbers, asked questions and explained things thoroughly. It wasn’t some canned approach of 'you get this, you get that' but instead a real negotiation tailored for our situation."
We saved thousands of dollars compared to friends of mine who used lawyers to 'fight it out.'
We came out of mediation with a clear plan that we both agreed to live by and our actual court hearing was a breeze.
As far as being child-focused goes, our situation was unique in that only our youngest child needed consideration (15 years old) and we wanted to have a very open custody plan, allowing him to choose who he stays with and when.
I can imagine lawyers would have wanted us to 'tighten that up' or maybe use custody as a weapon to threaten the other parent.
But, after asking us several questions and seeing this unstructured plan was really what we wanted and agreed to, Joe wrote that language into the mediation plan.
It really was OUR plan.
I'm not sure if I could have done anything differently to make it any easier because it was a pretty simple divorce for us.
It didn't seem to drag on forever and we were able to agree on pretty much everything.
Once “L” and I decided that we wanted to get divorced and then found Joe and Cheryl Dillon to help us divorce without lawyers, things went pretty quickly and smoothly.
If I had to start the divorce process over again, I would do more of my part to help the pace be quicker.
Try to get the children into a healthier routine away from the animosity that the parents are feeling towards each other.
Separate the bank accounts before the money is squandered.
I think the way we went about it is the way I would do it again, but hopefully I won't have to!
Being prepared and discussing all the issues that need to be addressed ahead of time helped us to really think though our decisions and choices for ourselves and especially the children.
If you have children, it should be all about their well-being and continued support of both parents to them.
While my hurt and anger towards the situation was a result of the divorce and rejection by my spouse, it was not towards my children.
I kept focus on them which made it easier for me to communicate my desires to my spouse and to amicably come to the agreeable decisions that needed to be made.
I would have gotten my kids in counseling right after we told them.
What advice would you give someone who is about to start the divorce process?
Before you suggest divorce to your spouse, do a lot of soul searching.
Look inward often and see whether your marital problems can be fixed by changing yourself. This of course does not apply to abuse of any sort.
But if you can work with your spouse and both want to try, do so.
However, if you cannot be married to that person anymore, at least be cordial, show respect by not resorting to name calling or deception, an choose to have a peaceful divorce.
Choose not to let your children see you at your worst.
Be sure to make decisions that will guarantee their welfare and well-being as much as possible. They will go through enough knowing that mommy and daddy aren't together anymore.
Throughout the divorce process, never forget to show and tell your kids that you love them - they need to know that.
You may feel that your world is falling apart, but theirs is - literally, and they have less control over it than you do.
Work out the distribution of assets with your spouse as thoroughly and as quickly as possible to save time and money - there are so many things towards the end of the mediation process that you'll want to spend more of your time on.
To make sure to always stay focused on the kids! Everything will work out better if their well-being is the priority.
Once you lose sight of that, it becomes messy and you start being selfish and the only ones that suffer are the kids.
Money is always an issue, but it comes and goes. Your kids, and how they feel will always be there.
That is the big picture that everyone needs to focus on.
Figure out what matters most to you and pick and choose your battles.
It's already an emotionally charged process, but try to remain as respectful, collected, and cooperative as possible.
Divorce through mediation can be a smooth and cost-effective process, but both parties have to be willing to work together toward that goal.
You are not 15 going through a teenage breakup. Grow-up!
Keep the focus on the kids a priority. The divorce is about two people drifting apart - for whatever reasons (in most cases).
Don’t drag this out.
The sooner you come to terms with this - the faster you can move on with your life and be fulfilled again!
Amicable divorce is the way to go, we are now both mother and father-of-the-year in our children's eyes...
Neither of us is better off than the other, we are both happy on our own in our new lives and can focus on our children in a new way.
Before starting the divorce process, be sure to investigate your options for how to get the divorce.
The legal method (using lawyers and litigating) is a gamble because the decision of the court is dependent upon financial data provided by the attorneys.
The process is complicated, costly and time consuming which ultimately reduces the value of the distribution. The end result is not always what the couple considers equitable and neither party is completely satisfied. In the meantime, the family will be disrupted by arguments which will affect the emotional well-being of children.
An out-of-court settlement is best because both parties know exactly what the outcome will be.
Both parties agree to compromise so that ultimately both will be satisfied with their decisions. During this process, the family unit is less affected because the parties argue less and work through the settlement together.
If the couple cannot agree on an amicable settlement on their own, mediation is the way to go.
I am happy I chose to mediate because during the entire process, I was completely in control of the settlement outcome and also very sure of what the cost of settlement would be.
The family unit was hardly affected and I remained amicable with my spouse throughout the process.
We have been divorced almost 2 years and our family still interacts as a unit for holidays and birthdays.
None of that could have been possible if we had chosen to battle our way through the legal system.
- R.R., litigated but reconciled prior to finalization, then mediated a few years later
Our divorce took a very long time after separation due to an unrelated lawsuit, but I would encourage people to not “drag out” the process just because it’s not pleasant to move forward.
Once you’ve decided to get divorced and that’s settled, go ahead and start the process as soon as possible.
And make sure that you hire competent divorce mediators.
Waiting as long as we did (6-1/2 years) put a strain on us and the children as we were in limbo for so long.
I would suggest having the divorce process taken care of as soon as possible, even though you might have a lot of animosity towards your soon to be ex - that feeling of hatred will only multiply as time goes on.
Lawyers use nasty tricks to make the parties argue even more.
There are always snide words used trying to stir up negative emotions. Also, you might think that the lawyer is your friend, he's not. He is laughing about you behind your back.
The lawyer’s job is to waste as much of your money as possible.
This is your children's inheritance. Put your children first and not the lawyers’ children who benefit from your hatred of your spouse.
Keep in mind that children have one mom and one dad, they deserve parents who want the best for them - parents who can put aside their hatred of each other and shine their love on their children.
Be sure that you mediate.
All the money you’ll give to lawyers will be taken from your children's future, so put your own kids first.
Children's well-being must come first.
Do whatever you have to to make sure the children are impacted as little as possible, and be honest with them.
Let them know that BOTH of you want this, and that you BOTH still love them.
"Mommy and Daddy don't hate each other, they just don't want to live together anymore (or don't love each other anymore). Mommy and Daddy will be happier when they are not living together anymore."
Something like that - depending on their age.
And talk honestly with your spouse, don't keep your feelings in - it causes resentment later.
Seek out a good divorce mediator.
Be fair and not resentful of your spouse.
Keep focused on the children's well-being and happiness.
While you might think a lawyer is the best choice, they really get a good part of the money that would be otherwise distributed amongst the two of you and your children.
If you are smart people, you can accomplish the discussions timely and cost-effectively with the guidance of a good mediator.
Be sure to mediate your divorce with Equitable Mediation.
Trust the process and have faith in Joe and Cheryl's experience.
And trust that everything they are doing is meant to make the result better for you.
Don't Let Your Divorce Become a Disaster!
Mediate with us instead.
If you want a high quality mediation that is peaceful, cost-effective and results in a fair and thorough agreement while receiving personalized divorce support from a compassionate team of professionals, choose Equitable Mediation.
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