You may have read about mediation, and you like the idea of simplifying the divorce process between you and your spouse. But you’re not sure that you and your spouse can actually come to an agreement without some animosity—can you still be a good mediation candidate?
Yes, you can—if both parties are committed to the mediation process. That’s a big “if,” but many couples are capable of making that commitment. As a mediator, this is what I look for in both parties:
- Both sides want to avoid litigation.
- Both sides have confidence in their knowledge of their assets, income, and debt.
- Both sides want to work towards an amicable resolution of child parenting and support issues.
- Both sides want a fair result.
Mediation is an excellent way of settling a couple’s property, income, debts, and children’s issues with dignity, integrity, and privacy. It’s accomplished through directed conversations with both parties and the mediator. Each party must provide financial and other pertinent information when requested. An experienced mediator will know what information to elicit and how to best present it for discussions concerning division, taxation, and valuation. The mediator is a neutral party, and doesn’t “take sides.” A mediator can point out to both parties when things seem to be biased one way or the other, and seek to reset the process on a more balanced footing. Drafting the separation agreement requires skill, knowledge, and experience. Each party is advised to have separate lawyer (“review counsel”) to analyze the separation agreement in that client’s best interests and to advise accordingly.
Some mediations are done quickly; others take more time. It depends on the circumstances and what the parties want. Learning to work and bargain with your ex-spouse or partner are skills that every party with children must acquire—because you will be dealing with the other parent of your children for a long time.
Mediation is the wrong platform if there are power struggles over money and control, or if one or both parties are bent on revenge. Mediation won’t work if there is no trust left between the parties.
It is important to choose a mediator who is experienced in matrimonial law in order to have the important issues brought out and fairly negotiated. Attorney Carolyn Swiggart has over 30 years’ experience as a family lawyer and is also certified mediator.