Mediation: The Art of Negotiation and Compromise

Mediation: The Art of Negotiation and Compromise

At its most basic, divorce mediation is a process of negotiation and compromise in which you and your spouse, with the help of a mediator, work toward mutually acceptable decisions concerning your divorce.

As you contemplate mediation, take stock of how adept you are in the fine art of give and take. Could your negotiating skills use a little brushing up? To maximize the effectiveness of mediation in resolving your divorce, use these tips to help you feel ready, willing, and able to negotiate.

Be prepared: What issues are you willing to give on? What are your sticking points? Before mediation begins, take stock of where you stand on the key issues of your divorce, including child custody matters and division of marital assets, including the family home. Equally important is taking time to objectively anticipate your spouse’s positions and preferences. Are they the same? How do they differ? Being prepared for mediation also means taking the very practical step of retaining a family lawyer for general guidance with your divorce and to help you get a clear understanding of the law and enforceability of any solution proposed during mediation.

Be realistic: Setting unattainable expectations for the outcome of your divorce is an almost sure-fire way to encounter significant roadblocks in mediation negotiations. Regardless of your strategy and tactics, remain reasonable, both in terms of what you propose, and how you respond to what your spouse proposes – even if he or she isn’t realistic.

Be honest: In the heat of negotiation, it can be easy to lose perspective and “take a short-cut” where the truth is concerned, especially if you think your spouse is being dishonest. Remember, this is not court; your mediator will not render a verdict after listening to arguments and evaluating evidence. In mediation, you have nothing to lose by being honest – in fact, you have everything to gain, because it will help make your mediation process move forward that much faster. If you do sense that your spouse is lying or withholding information, discuss with your lawyer how best to proceed.

Be calm: Count to 10. Take a few deep breaths. Step outside for a few minutes of fresh air. Bring a stress ball to squeeze. This is often easier said than done, but do everything in your power to stay in control of your emotions during mediation. Doing so is vital for thinking clearly as you assess positions, situations and proposals. If you are struggling with emotions during divorce (which is quite normal), consider working with a therapist who specializes in divorce-related counselling. You can ask your mediator for referrals.

Be flexible: There is almost always more than one way solve a problem. If you lock yourself into one – and only – one position or point of view on a particular issue, you are denying yourself the opportunity to take advantage of other possibilities; some of which may actually be better than your initial position (or, at least, stand a greater chance of being accepted by your spouse). In the same light, be willing to propose creative solutions and alternatives as a counter to what your spouse proposes. By modelling flexibility, you increase the chances your spouse will mirror this behaviour back to you.

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