The divorce process can be an extremely stressful time for you and your family. Even under the best of circumstances it can leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.
Choosing mediation is a great first step towards making your divorce go as smoothly as possible.
But here are a few additional divorce mediation tips that you can also use as a divorce mediation checklist to ensure that things stay on track and out of court.
9 Divorce Mediation Tips:
1. Be interested in, comfortable with and ready to make your own decisions in divorce mediation.
Some people expect the mediator to give them advice. Or tell them what to do.
But that isn’t what divorce mediation is all about.
The divorce mediator will give you legal information, but not legal advice. He will guide you through your negotiations on all of the issues that need to be resolved in your divorce and help you reach an agreement you both find fair.
But the mediator won’t tell you what to do.
All decisions made in mediation will be made by you and will be fully within your control.
2. Actively participate in the divorce mediation process.
Since mediation is a voluntary process, it will not be successful if you or your spouse refuses to cooperate or actively participate.
3. Be willing to compromise.
Some couples going through a divorce dig their heels in and have a “my way or the highway” mentality.
But in order for your mediation to go smoothly, you must both be willing to compromise to find middle ground.
4. Engage in a good faith negotiation.
Because mediation is a transparent process, you and your spouse will both need to be prepared to engage in a good faith negotiation.
That means you’ll need to reveal and openly disclose all relevant information, whether financial or otherwise, to the mediator and to your spouse. And ensure that the information is accurate, complete and truthful to the best of your knowledge.
If you and/or your spouse is hiding assets, defrauding the other or not being honest, you will not have a successful mediation.
5. Take care of your emotional and physical well-being during divorce.
Divorce is one of the most traumatic events that you will likely ever experience in your life. And it can be downright impossible to fully deal with the physical and emotional toll it can take on you.
Operating under such an extreme level of stress often means not eating, not sleeping and living with constant worry, anxiety and negative mind chatter. This can ultimately lead to poor decision-making resulting in an unfair settlement because instead of negotiating from a position of calm and strength, you’re making decisions out of anger or fear.
You are simply too drained and exhausted physically and emotionally to be able to think clearly and make sound decisions critical to your present and your future.
You can’t make such life-altering decisions on topics such as custody, child support, alimony or equitable distribution if you aren’t sleeping or eating. And you certainly can’t be there for your kids if you haven’t first taken care of yourself.
Enlisting the help of a divorce coach or therapist during such a significant life event is critical to your present and future success. Doing so will help you be better equipped to get through this painful time in your life with confidence and the clarity you need to negotiate effectively and make critical decisions about your future.
6. Stay off the Internet.
The Internet is not a reliable source of information when it comes to calculating alimony or child support. And while it might be tempting to search the Internet for information on how much alimony or child support you can expect to pay or receive, resist the urge to do so.
For example, there is no such thing as an alimony calculator in New Jersey. And even though Illinois recently developed a maintenance formula, there are a number of situations in which the formula or its calculated amount either can't or doesn’t have to be used.
And when it comes to child support, the Illinois child support and New Jersey child support calculators aren’t formulas, but rather, guidelines that suggest a minimum of amount of child support to be paid. And there are a number of things that aren’t even included.
Meaning the child support guidelines are open to interpretation and negotiation.
There is a lot of misinformation on the Internet, no two divorces are the same and these issues are way too complex to try to figure out yourself. So it's better for you and your spouse to wait for your mediator to give you information that pertains to your specific case and then guide you through these topics.
This way, you and your spouse can make informed decisions that are right for your particular situation.
7. Don’t Involve Friends/Family in Your Divorce Proceedings.
When it comes to divorce and financial matters such as child support or alimony, there’s a lot of misinformation with most of it coming from friends and family. And while they may have your best interests in mind, it’s unlikely the advice they’ll give you will be based in fact or reality.
Then there’s the issue of bias. Naturally, they care about you and will want to make you feel better, so they’re going to take your side and tell you whatever you want to hear.
But are you really sure you want to base your future on opinions or judgment?
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is coming into mediation firmly entrenched in your position because of something you read on the Internet or heard from family or friends. Because you’ll be convinced that your information is the right information and so you’ll go forth negotiating as if you have the truth on your side.
But the problem is that this “information” came to you unverified or from an un-reputable source. So unwittingly, you will have handed over your financial future to an unqualified friend, family member or worse yet, total stranger.
If you have a close friend or family members to lean on for emotional support, go for it. But resist the urge to discuss the details of your divorce proceedings with them.
Instead, wait for divorce mediation to get the facts and information necessary to make educated decisions on these important issues.
8. Don’t make financial commitments before your divorce agreement is worked out.
Sometimes, when divorcing spouses are able to speak with each other outside of session, it can lead to better decision making and quicker progress. But as much as communicating outside of mediation sessions can sometimes be positive, there are also times when talking (and more specifically making decisions) outside of session can do more harm than good.
In equitable distribution states such as Illinois and New Jersey, the parties are encouraged to actively participate in the fair and equitable distribution of their marital assets and liabilities. But unless you and your spouse are experts in the financial matters pertaining to divorce, this can be a dangerous path to walk.
Divorce is a painful process so it’s normal to want it to be over with as soon as possible. And you might think that you can help speed the process if you and your soon-to-be ex try to make as many decisions as possible before you start mediation.
But given the financial complexities of divorce, you can’t decide what a fair and equitable settlement looks like until you first have all the facts.
Then there are the parties who fall into the trap of thinking the best way to divide up assets and liabilities is by splitting each item down the middle. That can lead to thousands of dollars in additional filing costs that wouldn’t have been necessary if they had waited for an expert mediator skilled in the finances of divorce to offer a different approach and reduce filing complexities and fees.
Finally, there are the tax consequences of divorce.
Assets and liabilities can each have different tax consequences and if not properly accounted for, a settlement that might look fair on paper may turn out to be favorable to only one party and not the other. This can happen if one party trades a checking account for a 401k, confusing pre-tax with post-tax dollars, or when there are stocks involved and neither party is aware of the cost basis of a given portfolio.
That’s why working with a mediator skilled in the finances of divorce is critical. Not only to make your negotiations easier, but to ensure that you don’t wind up with an unexpected and unpleasant surprise from the IRS.
9. Hire a competent divorce mediator.
Not only do you need to make the decision to mediate, but you also have to decide which mediation team you’re going to entrust to guide you through your divorce. Maybe you think all divorce mediators are the same and it doesn’t matter who you work with so you’ll just pick whoever is listed first in the directory.
Mediation is an unregulated profession in the United States, so be careful not to trust your divorce to just anyone. Choosing a highly skilled, expert mediation team is the single most important thing you can do to ensure your divorce is as peaceful and cost-effective as possible.
The complex legal, financial and emotional issues you will undoubtedly face require expertise that only comes with training, certifications, continuing education and years of experience in the field.
Divorce Mediation Tips for Success
While there are hundreds of divorce mediation tips, hopefully you learned some important steps to take to ensure your divorce mediation will be peaceful, productive and successful in resolving all of the issues required for divorce without involving lawyers.
Do you or your spouse live in Illinois or New Jersey?
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