It is occasionally asked whether mediation is bad for women. The assumption in asking this question is that women may not have the financial acumen or negotiating skills to be able to successfully negotiate to a fair agreement in mediation. There is nothing that is inherently good or bad about mediation for women. The more relevant question is, regardless of your gender, whether you should mediate if you are not familiar with the family finances or are not comfortable negotiating.
Preparation is key
If you are not familiar with your family finances or are not a confident negotiator, but you are willing to put in the effort early in your divorce process to educate yourself and to prepare for your mediation sessions, then mediation can work for you. Most people are more satisfied with an outcome that they agreed to after becoming educated as to the issues and options, rather than one which is imposed by a judge or recommended by a lawyer without full understanding. A little homework and preparation can go a long way in making your mediation successful.
Understanding your finances
In the mediation process one of the first steps is the gathering of financial information. The mediator advises as to the information needed and helps with the organization and analysis. Once the financial information is on the table you may review and familiarize yourself with the information between mediation sessions. If needed, you may confer with your own lawyers and financial advisor for assistance in understanding the issues and settlement options in preparation for your mediation sessions. If needed, an impartial financial advisor may be used as part of the mediation process to assist both parties in valuing assets and evaluating tax and cash flow issues.
Learning about finances in the midst of the emotional turmoil of a divorce may seem daunting. However, understanding the financial issues is a task each party should take on early in the game. Whether litigating, collaborating or mediating, important financial decisions must be made during the divorce process and you will be better able to establish priorities and make good decisions if you understand the financial facts and issues.
Leveling the playing field
It is unusual to have a completely level playing field at the beginning of any mediation process. Mediators are mindful of this and work to balance what are termed “power imbalances” between the parties by helping to manage the information, communication and negotiation so that each party is heard and understands the issues before making agreements. Consultation with your own lawyer or financial advisor or the use of an impartial financial advisor can also help to level the playing field.
With a little advance preparation, mediation can be a successful method for resolving your divorce out of court, even if you are not familiar with all of the financial issues at the start. If after reading this you feel overwhelmed but you would still like to work on your divorce in a non-adversarial way, then the collaborative process is an option you should consider.