Getting your divorce settlement right is important. If you are wisely choosing divorce mediation to resolve your divorce, the only way you are going to get your settlement right is by choosing the right divorce mediation firm. It is important because your divorce settlement will affect you legally and financially.
Here are four important things you should expect in divorce mediation and one thing you shouldn’t (but many people do):
- An Experienced Local Divorce Attorney-Mediator: Make sure you choose a divorce mediation firm that employs local and experienced divorce attorneys as mediators. With the Internet, people everywhere are claiming that they can mediate your case on the cheap. Remember you get what you pay for. Also, in many places literally anyone can claim they are a divorce mediator. That’s a recipe for disaster. Divorce is an inherently local practice. Someone in Pittsburg can’t tell you how your case in Philadelphia should come out. Look for a divorce mediator who has been a practicing divorce lawyer in your local jurisdiction. They’ll know the laws and customs and can help you avoid costly mistakes.
- Structured Discussions: Expect the mediator to encourage open but structured discussions regarding the division of your assets, custody arrangements, and support payments. That means that the mediator is going to expect you to reveal your finances and assets, as well as your goal for your post-divorce life. Mediation, however, is not a free-for-all counseling session or forum to bash your spouse. A good mediator will guide and structure your discussions and may even cut you our your spouse off if the discussion goes off the rails, which is common when emotions are high. Be prepared to discuss all these topics and bring any supporting documentation with you. You can view a list of things you should bring your divorce mediation sessions here.
- Professional Guidance: Traditionally, mediators were supposed to let the parties determine the outcome of their case without any guidance whatsoever. They were there only to facilitate discussions. That style is still practices by many old-school mediators and it frequently results in unfair agreements. While they can’t give you specific legal advice, a modern divorce mediator will advise you as to how your case might come out it court and what is generally considered “fair” or the “rule of thumb” in your jurisdiction. The mediator will present you with information in a fair, well-reasoned manner so that you can make the decisions that are best for you.
- Neutrality: You should expect a divorce mediator to be neutral in all aspects of your case: divorce, support and, if applicable, custody. If you sense that your mediator is biased, consider finding a new mediator.
While divorce mediation is a great way to resolve your divorce, the #1 thing you should not expect from meditation is to gain an advantage over your spouse. Many people have this misperception about mediation (almost always the higher-earning spouse). The think that if they can keep their spouse away from hiring a divorce attorney, they will get a better result for themselves in mediation. Do not expect this from mediation. It rarely, if ever, works and it will poison the well likely causing your mediation to fail, resulting in higher cost and poorer results.