Every year, thousands of couples in New Jersey successfully use divorce mediation to end their marriages in as swift, stress-free and affordable a manner as possible. While these potential benefits are impressive, it is important to understand that you and your spouse are ultimately the ones who determine if mediation will be effective for resolving your divorce.
How can you increase your chances for mediation success? Here are some tried-and-true tips for getting the most out of the divorce mediation process.
Tip 1: Choose an experienced and reputable mediator. Because divorce deals with critical matters involving both family and finances, it is critical that you choose a mediator who has been specially trained as a mediator, has a knowledgeable background in family law, and can show a proven track record of successfully helping divorcing couples. When interviewing a mediator, you should both feel comfortable that your questions are clearly answered, and confident that this person is someone you and your spouse can count on to help you through this process.
Tip 2: Be responsive to your mediator. Your mediator will ask for information, such as financial documents and other data. It is in your best interest to provide all requested information in an organized and prompt manner – not because your mediator merely asks you to, but because by doing so, you enable him or her to provide you with the best possible guidance. When you negotiate with facts and information, you reduce the chances for misunderstanding and increase your chances of succeeding in your goal of ending your marriage peacefully.
Tip 3: Be committed to the process. As you navigate the mediation process, be aware that it’s not uncommon to hit a “rocky patch” where dialogue with your spouse may feel tense and unpleasant. Because mediation involves negotiation and compromise on issues that matter a great deal to both of you, understand that mediation sessions may have their ups and downs. When this happens, going back and revisiting your priorities can be a great way to get ‘unstuck’ and begin moving forward again. The more committed you are to the process, the greater the chances that you will succeed.
Tip 4: Be a good listener. Mediation is a process of “give and take,” and it is a virtual certainty that you will not get everything you ask for – or feel happy about what you are being asked to give up. You will have the opportunity to speak and make a case for anything you propose. When you do, strive to be clear, focused, and calm. At the same time, be prepared to really listen to your spouse, and try to respond, rather than react, to what he or she is saying. It’s always surprising to see how willing some spouses are to give a little and compromise when they feel validated in expressing their ideas and opinions.
Tip 5: Keep your emotions in check. When negotiating a particularly hot button issue, you or your spouse may be extremely tempted to go into “fight mode” – and typically, it only takes one spouse to start the rumble before the other one is giving as good as they get. While mediation is a place where you can and will discuss your feelings and perceptions, your mediator is not a therapist. Remind yourself as many times as necessary to take the high road and remain focused on the issues, not the hurt and anger. (For more, read our article on “How to keep your emotions in check”.)