Meditation can be a better option than going to court. It’s definitely cheaper than hiring attorneys. It’s not the right choice for every situation but many times it is. Below I’m going to give you a brief overview of how mediation works.
Mediation is considered a form of facilitated negotiation. What that means is you and your spouse negotiate the terms of your divorce with a mediator’s help. As the ones getting divorced you have the final say on what you’ll agree upon in your divorce. The mediator does not decide who gets what because the mediator isn’t a judge.
Usually divorce mediation will start with the mediator meeting with each spouse separately so that they have a chance to gather facts without the other spouse’s input. It allows each person to speak freely. The mediator will use this information to create an agenda for the mediation. This meeting is essential because it gives the mediator a chance to know you and find out what’s important to you.
When communication breaks down in the mediation, which it will, the mediator can step in with some insight as to what’s motivating both sides. I like to call it “acting as a translator” because the mediator is translating the words you say into intent so the other person can understand where you’re coming from. This is powerful because it helps both people see things from a different perspective.
At the beginning of the first mediation session each spouse is invited to make an “opening statement.” Don’t worry, it’s not formal like an attorney speaking in court but it is just one person talking. This is the time to say what’s important to you and what you hope the outcome will be. For example, people sometimes say that they want to have a good co-parenting relationship. As your spouse is talking, if you have issues with what they’re saying, jot it down so it can be addressed after they have finished.
Once you have made your opening statement then the mediation begins. The mediator will usually bring up an issue that is either urgent or is minor enough that an agreement can be reached easily. It’s important to have early wins because divorce is tough and you need to have evidence that you and your spouse can still work together.
To begin negotiating one spouse will state what they want, this is called making a proposal. For example, “I want to keep all my retirement and for you to keep yours.” The other spouse will respond or make a counter proposal. They may say something like “Great!” or “Your retirement account has 10 times the amount of money than mine because I stayed home with the kids for 15 years. I want all of mine and half of yours.” The mediator helps both spouses to think about their proposals as they go back and forth until they finally reach an agreement.
As the above example illustrates you will need to have all of your financial disclosures completed and exchanged with your spouse before mediation can begin. It’s impossible for the mediator to help you if they don’t have numbers in front of them.
Once you and your spouse have agreed to all the matters up for negotiation you’re almost done. Your agreements will be typed up to be submitted to court. You and your mediator will review the terms and you’ll sign the paperwork. It will be sent to the courthouse that is handling your case to wait for the judge to review and sign off on your divorce. Once the judge signs and you receive your divorce settlement back from the courthouse it’s time to pop some champagne because you’re officially divorced!