Mediation 101

Divorce is never easy. It has taken a long time for you to make the decision to split up. And even if you and your spouse are still on “good terms”, you’ll still encounter problems when you attempt to work out the details of your separation. Rarely is there equal bargaining power in a marriage. Plus, it is very difficult to make rational decisions when emotions are running high. Few situations are as emotionally charged as the end of a relationship.

Mediation is a voluntary settlement process which allows you to control your own destiny rather than leaving your fate up to a judge who knows nothing about your or your spouse. You need never step foot into a courtroom as all discussions are held in the safety and comfort of the mediator’s office. Because of this mediation is far less costly in both economic and emotional terms. Couples can save up to 90% over a traditional courtroom battle by using the mediation process.

How it works:

Divorce Mediation is a step by step process through which separating couples arrive at a fair agreement which is acceptable to both parties. It is conducted under the guidance of a trained professional who helps the couple to make their own important decisions concerning their changing and uncertain future. The mediator need not be a lawyer. A psychologist with some knowledge of divorce law can be quite effective in dealing with a couple going through a breakup of their marriage.

The mediator helps you identify the points upon which you already agree and works from there, with cooperative problem solving, to work on the issues which are not so easily disposed of. Some examples of typical questions which come up during the process are:

· Who will the children live with?
· How much visitation will the non-residential parent enjoy? · How much support will be paid?
· What does support cover?
· Who gets to stay in the house?
· How will I get my money from the property we own?
· How will our investments be divided?
· Do I have to share my retirement?
· Who will pay the credit card debt?
· What about health insurance?
· Will the kids get to go to college?

A skilled and experienced mediator is able to create a safe and cooperative environment which encourages open and honest discussion. The mediator’s role is an impartial one, identifying issues exploring underlying interests, suggesting options and balancing power.

The mediator is neutral, does not represent either party and does not make decisions. They are trained to listen and help both parties stay focused on the task at hand. There is no need to being “dirty laundry” into the room or the discussions. Mediators encourage the couple to search for a solution to their unique problems and support them once a decision is made.

The mediation process culminates (usually after an average of five sessions) in the preparation of a Marital Settlement Agreement which details the specifics of your mutually agreed upon decisions. This agreement is the basis of the divorce decree.

A Final Note

It is important to understand that mediation is not the arena for deciding whether or not to separate or divorce. That should be done in the office of a mental health professional. However, once the decision is reached, mediation can help the separating couple and their children avoid unnecessary scars and return much sooner to the business of living.