If you’re getting divorced and are concerned about the emotional and financial costs of a long court battle, you may consider trying to reach an agreement through mediation. If you did not manage the money in your family however, or if you find understanding finances a little overwhelming, you may be worried that you will be taken advantage of in mediation. This is something to think about in selecting your type of divorce process, and perhaps you would be better served by a full collaborative process. However, there are steps that should be taken by the mediator and that may be taken by you, to balance this type of “power imbalance” to allow you to successfully mediate your divorce, avoiding the additional expense of a collaborative process or the adversarial and expensive litigation process.
First, your mediator should require each of you to bring to the mediation complete documentation of all your assets, debts, income and expenses. The mediator should then organize the information and review it with both of you. If there are things that you do not understand or if you feel you need more information, you should make sure to ask for this at the start of the mediation. At this point, before any substantive negotiations begin, you should do your own homework to prepare yourself for the negotiations. This includes making sure that you review and understand the information provided and confer with your own lawyer and/or financial advisor as needed to help you to understand the financial picture. Make sure that you select a lawyer that encourages and supports you in the mediation process, rather than undermining the process and steering you towards a court battle.
Your mediator should let you know what is on the agenda for each upcoming mediation session. Most mediation processes occur over a period of time. Each mediation session is usually two hours and the sessions are typically scheduled about two weeks apart. This allows time for you to prepare for the session, making sure you understand the topics that are going to be discussed and options that may be put on the table for you to consider. A little homework and preparation can go a long way in making your mediation successful.
While taking the time to prepare for mediation may seem daunting in the midst of such a major life transition, as you move forward in your life, having laid the foundation for you to understand and manage your own finances going forward should serve you well. 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.
If you would like to discuss your particular situation with us, to help you decide what divorce process might be best for you and your family, please give us a call.