Make It MATTER: Tips for a Better Outcome in Mediation

One of the major reasons many couples choose to mediate instead of going to court is to save money and time. So it’s important to do what you can to help get to an agreement in a reasonable timeframe. Here are some tips to maximize the mediation process to take full advantage of its benefits.

Be Forward Thinking

Mediation is not psychotherapy and the mediator is not your therapist. The mediation session is not the place to start the blame game or otherwise point fingers as to why the divorce is even happening. Dwelling on the past is counterproductive and will prevent both parties from hashing out issues about kids, asset division and other topics that must be addressed in a divorce. Look toward the future to craft an agreement to let you both get on with your lives. This means discussing a fair division of assets that accrued during the marriage, even if only one person actually paid for the assets. It means agreeing to share parenting time for the kids’ benefit even if one parent did 90% of the parenting during the relationship. It means fairly dividing responsibility for the family debt even if one person did most of the spending.

Be Respectful

Dovetailing on the concept of forward looking is the concept of respect. There are times in the mediation session when tempers flare and words fly. Obviously, it’s hard to reach an agreement with someone who is name-calling and pointing out every character flaw that the other party has. Showing respect to the other party invites reasonable discussion. Again, it is counterproductive in a mediation session to trash the other party. If things feel heated, ask for a time out or maybe to end the session for now and reconvene when both sides are feeling more composed.

Be Open Minded

This may seem quite obvious, but the idea of compromise in mediation eludes some folks. The mediator’s job is to help the parties reach agreements. But if every suggestion or proposal is met with a negative attitude the mediation will fail. For any mediation to succeed and result in an agreement that both parties can live with, there must be some give-and-take.

Be Prepared

In most states, court rules require each party in a divorce or support matter to fill out a financial statement, as full financial disclosure is required. It makes sense to complete the forms, even if it’s just a rough draft, prior to coming to the mediation. If one party has control of the finances that information should be shared and discussed before the parties head into their session. The mediation session is not the place to bicker about who has control of the family checkbook.

While every mediation does not necessarily keep all cases out of court, keeping these hints mind will go a long way to making your mediation a success.