4 Mistakes to Avoid During Divorce Mediation
There are many different types of couples that use mediation to go through their divorce. The couples described below have behavior that was harmful to the mediation process. Hopefully you can learn from them on what not to do (and what to do) in your divorce mediation.
Mistake 1: Treating Mediation Like LitigationJeremy and Christine hate each other. If they don't then they are not doing a great job of hiding it. Each one of them has been wronged and they want their pound of flesh. The only thing they can agree on is that they need to be divorced, and that they will do it using mediation, but that's it. Every session is a struggle to gain any progress because they argue every point, they threaten to file motions in court, and they want the mediator to take a side, and tell them who is right, and more importantly, who's wrong.
What can we learn from Jeremy and Christine?
You don't have to agree on everything to be effective in divorce mediation.
Sure, the more you agree the easier and quicker the mediation will go, but just because you don't agree doesn't mean that the mediation will fail. It just means that the mediator and the couple have to work a little harder to find some agreement. Sometimes that means holding of on getting agreements on big issues like where the kids are going to live, or who get's the house, and just finding something mutual, like "you agree that you both love your kids", or "you agree that someone should stay in the house with the kids rather than selling it"
The mediator is not the judge.
Their role is not to pick a side and decide who's right, wrong, or more who gets the toaster oven or the big screen TV (priorities people!)
The mediator's role is to be neutral so he can't pick sides.
The mediator doesn't make any decisions (for you).
That's up to you. He'll help you with solutions but ultimately the decisions and agreements are yours to make (and live with).
Mistake #2: Hiding Financial InformationJeff and Samantha have separate bank accounts, credit cards, and retirement accounts. During the marriage they split the monthly expenses and paid their share out of their individual accounts. They never talked about finances, or shared info with each other about their finances. So now at the mediation the first thing they tell the mediator is that they just want to keep things the way they where during the marriage, they'll keep their individual accounts and retirement accounts, and there's no need to split things, so there is no need to disclose to each other, or the mediator their financial information.
What can you learn form Jeff and Samantha?
Mediation requires full disclosure of all (with a capital "A") of your financial records.
Your mediator will emphasize this early on in the process. Even if you decide like Jeff and Samantha how you want to allocate the finances there still needs to be complete sharing of the financial information with each other.
To make an informed decision you have to have all the facts.
That's why full disclosure of your finances is not just important, it's necessary. Its necessary for the process, and it is required by the court. So when you are going through your mediation gather all of your statements and records for your financial accounts, assets and liabilities and be prepared to share them, and review your spouses as part of the mediation process.
Mistake #3: Not Letting Go of the Past So You Can Work On Your Future.Al and Peggy both agree that they need to be divorced, just for different reasons, and they are going to make sure the mediator knows why, in detail, every chance they get. Every topic is another opportunity to tell the mediator every thing that their spouse has done wrong. Why? Because a lot of times this is the only opportunity that they will get to let their spouse know how they felt and how they are feeling. Now, at an hourly rate the mediator might be tempted to let them go on, and on, and on, and on,...and on. That would be great for the mediators pocket, but it's not helpful for the couple, or the mediation process.
What Can You Learn From Al and Peggy?
It is important to acknowledge the past, but you can't make it define your future. Once the past is acknowledged your efforts should shift to shaping your future, in spite of your past.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." True, but not necessarily applicable in a divorce since you both are about to create your own separate futures. It is important, I believe for the couple to have an opportunity to get some things off of their chest's, and the mediator can facilitate that by giving each spouse an opportunity to say what they need to say.
The best time to do this is early in the process, preferably in the first session. This accomplishes two things:
1)Gives the parties the opportunity to express how they are feeling which is important, especially if this is the first time they are getting the chance to do so. Some couples need this before they can move on, which brings us to the second reason.
2)It closes the door on those issues so that now the parties can deal with the future. If you are always talking about the past and what happened we can't focus on the future, and what needs to happen.
There is no denying that each of you has strong feelings about what caused your marriage to break down, but once that has been addressed it is best to move on and begin work on your future.
Mistake #4: Not Being FlexibleBarry and Michelle are what you'd call Type A personalities. They are confident, know what they want, and don't mind telling you. They are very successful, and attribute a lot of their success to their ability to get what they want. Success for each one is getting what they want, and giving up as little as possible along the way. Now, take those two people who are used to getting their own way and get them to compromise their positions in mediation. Not easy. You might think that one person in the mediation like this would be difficult, and both spouses is down right impossible. You'd be right that it is challenging, but it is just a different challenge than any other couple.
What Can You Learn from Barry and Michelle?
Remain flexible, and don't define winning by how much you can get and how little you can loose.
The mediator's job is to help each party identify what is important to them, and then find ways to help each party achieve what's important to each other.
It's been said that a good compromise is when nobody wins. It depends on how you define a "win". If at the end you can both look back and be o.k. with the outcome focusing more on what you have, then what you lost, then I would consider that a win. That's the mediator's goal.