There are many benefits to choosing mediation for your divorce, but it’s also important to understand and prepare for the challenges. The decisions made in mediation can significantly impact your life for years to come. With that in mind, it can be easy to become overwhelmed during the session if you are not adequately prepared. Likewise, you may make agreements that are not in your best interest if you are tired and worn out. These simple mediation strategies will help you make the most of your mediation session and get what you want from your divorce settlement.I strongly believe in the benefits of choosing mediation for your divorce but it's also important to understand and prepare for the challenges. The decisions made in mediation can significantly impact your life for years to come. With that in mind, it can be easy to become overwhelmed during the session if you are not adequately prepared. Likewise, you can make agreements that may not be in your best interest if you are simply tired and worn out from the mediation.
Strategies to Make the Most of Your Mediation
The simple mediation strategies can help you get what you want from your divorce settlement.#1 Take Time to Reflect Ahead of Time
Taking time to reflect about what you want and what you need to get out of your divorce settlement ahead of time can save you time and money in the future. Write your thoughts down on paper and read it aloud. What are you hoping to accomplish? How will you respond? What are you willing to let go of to achieve the outcome you want? By taking the time to go through this process ahead of time, you’ll organize your thoughts, identify your priorities and set realistic expectations. Take this paper with you to mediation so that you can be clear as to what you want. If you are represented by legal counsel, give your attorney a copy so that they know what to expect and how to proceed.
#2 Consider Strengths and Weaknesses
Make an effort to analyze strengths and weakness on both sides of the table before you begin negotiation. In other words, identify the strengths and weaknesses of your ex, but don’t forget to think about your own as well. Is there a certain topic that always gets you riled up? Do you have a soft spot that might make you vulnerable during negotiations? If so, put some strategies in place. How will you improve your confidence in the areas that make you feel weak? What will you do if someone across the table from you tries to use those weak points against you? Plan out your actions ahead of time so that you can get the best divorce settlement agreement possible.
One of the more common areas that many people struggle with is that of finances. If you are not confident discussing your finances, meet with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) prior to your mediation session. A CDFA can provide you with the financial education you need to be confident in your financial negotiations.
#3 Monitor and Control Your Emotions
Divorce is a stressful and emotional time. A mediation session is no different. It can be very easy for your emotions to be triggered during a session, so make sure that you’ve planned accordingly. How do you react in stressful situations? When you are hungry? Or when you are tired. Take all of those things into account. Make sure to get enough sleep the day before, eat a healthy meal, and contemplate the responses you will have ahead of time.
Keep your goal at the forefront of your mind. What is the outcome you are hoping for from mediation? What will your future look like if the mediation doesn’t work out the way you want it to? Know that your responses to situations that arise can prevent a successful outcome, so monitor and control your emotions. Doing so will help you reach your goal and get you what you want and what you need.
#4 Don't Overreact to an Offer
Remember that every resolution needs to start somewhere. Do not allow yourself to become so focused on the inadequacy of a first offer that you can't continue the conversation in a productive manner. Many times a party to mediation will react strongly to a first offer. Reactions may include comments such as, “That’s outrageous. We’re never going to agree on anything,” or “That’s an insult. I’m out of here.”
A first offer is a starting point and should elicit a thoughtful, strategic response rather than an emotional outburst that derails the potential of a mediation session. Consider (preferably ahead of time) how you will respond to offers that don’t immediately meet your needs and wants. With a “script” in place, it will be easy to stay on track and keep the mediation moving forward.
#5 Take Your Time and Make a Thoughtful Decision
If you aren’t fully ready to commit to a decision, just don’t. If you are not confident that the offer being presented serves you well, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board, but often that requires a little space. Ask for a break or ask for the mediation to be continued another day. Then think about the outcome of committing to that decision. Give yourself time to think over the consequences and even to consult with a professional who can advise you on it if necessary. You may not always get exactly the outcome you were hoping for, but it’s important not to commit prematurely to something that will affect the rest of your life.Your Successful Mediation Requires Planning
There are many benefits to mediation and it's more cost-effective, efficient and less stressful than going to court. Additionally, you also have a lot more control over the outcome. That said, it's important to take the time you need in order to prepare. By doing so, you’ll be much more likely to reach a favorable settlement. Your future is at stake, so take your time and plan ahead for success.
Leah Hadley is an experienced mediator, Accredited Financial Counselor, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and a Master Analyst in Financial Forensics. After going through her own divorce after ten years of marriage, her goal is to ease the stress of divorce by making the process as painless as possible for couples and individuals alike. When she’s not working, Leah loves spending time with her family, taking her kids on road trips, and volunteering with various organizations like the PTA, NAWBO and Girl Scouts.