People often think of the divorce mediation process as a completely open and trusting process. Indeed, the Ohio State Bar Association describes mediation as a process in which "the mediator provides an atmosphere for sharing ideas" and "each party is given a full opportunity to share his or her perspective on the situation."
Although divorcing spouses do need to collaborate and work together as much as possible for mediation to work, you should not go into your divorce mediation naive or ill-prepared. Divorce mediation is meant to be an amicable negotiation, but it is still a negotiation, and there is a chance you could lose out in terms of financial support, division of assets and even parenting time.
There are a few things you could do to make sure the process works efficiently while still protecting your interests:
- Guard your reputation: The time leading up to divorce is not the time to speak badly about your ex-spouse to your children, in social media (as mentioned in a previous blog post) or in any other context. It is also not the time to engage in criminal activity or other erratic behavior. These actions would lead a court to lose confidence in your parenting ability, which would give your spouse leverage in the negotiations, especially in terms of parenting time.
- Prepare your financials: Having a good working knowledge of your financial situation is important going into your mediation sessions. You should work with an experienced lawyer to make sure you know all of the income, assets and debts for you and your spouse.
- Prepare for trial: Having all of the information together before mediation, as if you are going to trial, can be extremely helpful. If you know what to expect at trial, it will give you a better sense for how to resolve your conflicts outside of the court. For example, you wouldn't accept $1,000 a month of spousal support in mediation if you knew you could triple that if the matter were decided in court.
- Adopt the right attitude: Although you do need to prepare carefully for mediation, and it is required in some cases before proceeding with a traditional divorce, it remains a valuable tool for resolving conflicts amicably and efficiently, with greater control over the outcome. It is important to abandon the notion of fighting tooth and nail over ever issue that comes up.
If you come into the mediation sessions prepared and ready work with your spouse (assuming your spouse shows up with the same attitude), you might be surprised at how well the process works.