When you decide to mediate you need to have a road map or a game plan so you know what to expect. Think about it in terms of what you should be doing before, during and after your mediation sessions.
The first thing to do is ask yourself a couple questions: What can you live with? What can’t you live without?
It may feel as if you can’t live without seeing your kids every single day, but the reality is that you actually can. And sometimes it is better for them, and you, to have a little bit of separation.
Can you live with your spouse getting the house? Do you feel as if you can’t live without the family house? If yes, can you live with having to pay all the bills, the upkeep and the mortgage all by yourself?
It doesn’t really matter what the answers are to these types of questions as long as you know your answers. It creates your road map so you’ll know what concessions you can make and which things are non negotiable.
Now that it’s actually time to mediate you must work really hard to keep your calm. Your spouse probably knows you better than anyone else in the world and they’re going to push your buttons in mediation. Some of it is unintentional but not all of it. It’s really important that you don’t appear flustered that they’re bothering you. Don’t let them see you sweat.
Mediation is like a tennis match. The ball keeps going back and forth between the players. It’s not a tennis match if the other player won’t even lift their racket to play. In order to keep mediation moving someone must make a proposal. Once a proposal is made then you can say “Yes,” “No” or ask clarifying questions. If you say “No” then your job is to make a counter proposal. If you sit there and reject all the proposals and never make a viable counter proposal your mediation will stall out. These counter proposals can go back and forth between a couple a few times before they finally reach an agreement on an issue that they both feel right about. Below is an example of a proposal, clarifying questions and a counter proposal.
Proposal: I get 100% of the house and you get none. (BTW this is a crappy proposal and will probably make your spouse mad and possibly leave the mediation.)
Clarifying Questions: What do I get by giving you 100% of the house? We spent our joint funds to pay for the mortgage and upkeep of the house, our names are on the loan and title, and we bought it while we were married. How do you see me being compensated for my share of the family home? OR How do you see yourself affording the mortgage along with regular and unexpected maintenance for the house on one income?
Counter Proposal: If you really want to keep the house because it means so much to you I’m okay with that, but you’ll need to pay me 50% of the home’s equity and take my name off the mortgage and deed.
You’ve finished your first mediation session. Hooray! More than likely you will have homework to do or some sort of research to complete before your next session. One of the benefits of the homework, besides making sure all your numbers and data are correct, is getting into your thoughts. You’ll find yourself asking questions like: “Is xyz really that important to me?” or “Why am I holding onto this thing so tightly and digging my heels in?” It helps to get your mind right so you’re ready for the next session.
However, before you even start on your homework there is something you should do when your mediation session is over. Go have a strong drink, or a greasy cheeseburger, or a hot fudge sundae or whatever is a little guilty pleasure that will help you unwind and destress. Then plop yourself down in front of Netflix, let your mind and body relax and forget about your divorce for a few hours.