Getting divorced is trying. Regardless of the reasons, it is hard on you, hard on your children and can even be hard on other family members and friends. A divorce mediator can make the entire process easier, as well as saving on court costs and reducing stress. It is becoming a more popular option, especially for uncontested divorces, and more and more couples are turning to mediation to reduce anger and make the separation easier on everyone. The good news is that a divorce can end whenever the parties come to an agreement. So why not attend divorce mediation as soon as possible to come to an agreement? In fact, the vast majority of cases do not go to trial and settle anyway.
Before you rush into mediation, choosing the best divorce mediator is critical. Here are five good questions you should ask your divorce mediator or divorce attorney to make sure that you are getting the help you need.
- How do you make a divorce fair? Of course, you and your ex might have different views on what is fair – but that, in many ways, is where a divorce mediator comes in. Ask how the mediator or divorce attorney avoids becoming caught up in the emotions of the family. Talk to them about how they pull together the information needed to make better decisions and guide you to a proper resolution of all of the issues involved. Make sure that the mediator you choose has a solid idea of what is fair and can genuinely stand as neutral between you. It is very important that both you and your ex agree on your choice of mediator. They will be working for both of you, not just one, and you need to be able to develop a rapport with them. Remember that it is their job to find a compromise between you and your ex and ensure that you both get, if not what you want, then enough of it to be reasonably happy.
- How can you help our kids deal with the situation? How does the divorce mediator
handle the needs and desires of children, especially older ones? Will they talk to the children about what they want and give them a sense of some power in the situation? Decisions about the children should be driven by their needs, and a mediator can often see those more clearly. What is their process for discussing a parenting plan and working on issues of custody, childcare, and education? Kids may benefit from just knowing the mediator is there, but a good mediator will not leave them out of the equation. Court battles tend to leave the kids caught in the middle, whilst mediation has been shown to give a better long-term relationship. It is worth it for older kids to ask directly if the mediator is willing to talk to them. The mediator may also know of a counselor that you can go to or send them to.
- How do you handle high conflict issues? These might include financial issues, issues of childcare, even the custody of pets. In many cases, transparent communication and objectivity can help forge agreement and encourage couples to come to a resolution even on issues they thought they could never agree on. Find out what specific methods the mediator uses when things become heated and make sure that those methods fit with your personal communication styles. The mediator needs to be somebody who can de- escalate conflict rather than adding to it, and this may only be determined by talking to them. Ask what the mediator does, specifically, if people start yelling or storm out of the room. In some cases, it might be better to discuss high conflict issues separately. You can also ask how they deal with a case where one spouse appears to be running roughshod over the other.
- How do you handle unique issues of property and estates? How does the mediator handle it when pets or companion animals are involved (this can include high value animals such as show dogs or horses)? Does the mediator understand how to work with clients who have higher value property? If you have a prenuptial agreement that only needs to be tweaked, can they work with that? The exact question may depend on your specific circumstances. Can they also give advice on how to change your will to handle your new financial situation? Do they know the tax implications that might be involved? What about retirement accounts? In some cases, the divorce mediator may need to have a solid knowledge of tax issues and basic accounting. Some retirement accounts can be split, others need to be liquidated. A mediator can also help with arguments over items of high sentimental value. Ask what they do if a couple are fighting over a specific item, and how they have resolved such things in the past, especially if you know there is going to be a sticking point.
- How much mediation training do you have? In my opinion, at least sixty hours. It is also worth asking about experience. If you have an attorney, then you should be guided by your attorney’s recommendations for mediators. The most respected mediators are highly sought after by attorney’s and judges alike because they get the job done. Do not make the costly mistake of not retaining an attorney, and only seeking a mediator. It is always recommended to retain an attorney for legal advice, even if you must pay more money. Also, look for a mediator who either has a degree in law. While for custody purposes a qualified as a counselor is good, please note that mediators are not couples therapists. Always choose a specialist who is dedicated to the practice. Divorce attorneys who practice mediation are a great option because they will cut straight through issues, and tell you how it really is. You do not want to waste time and resources with someone who is more worried about your feelings than the best interest of your children and finances.
Choosing the right divorce mediator depends on your circumstances, but almost no divorce is too complicated or too emotional for mediation to be successful. At some point you must understand that mediation is mandatory in the divorce process, so why wait? The sooner you go to mediation, the sooner your divorce will possibly be complete. If you can afford to go, impress upon your counsel that you are interested in mediating the case right away. There is a reason why mediation is mandatory for both custody and economic issues, it works. The discussions during mediation are confidential, however, the agreement memorialized in mediation, once singed off by all attorneys are binding.
So, if you are at the beginning of your divorce process, it is worth taking the time to find the right person who has the right style, the best training, and has familiarity with divorce and other family law issues.
If you have any questions about the divorce, mediation—economic or child custody—and/or the court process, please do not hesitate to contact A.Brown Esq. LLC for a free consultation.