Mediation is a perfect opportunity to “stop the bleeding” of divorce litigation and the opportunity should not be taken lightly. Here are 5 things you can do to ensure that your divorce mediation leads to a successful result.
South Carolina’s Court Annexed ADR Rules require all civil cases and all family court cases to go to mediation prior to trial. The reason mediation is required is that it works- a vast majority of cases in the litigation process will settle in mediation. We believe that it is important for our clients to make the best of the opportunity. Here are a few things that have worked for us.
- Define what will be a “successful result”: Your ability to understand your boundaries will be critical in the divorce mediation. It is important to understand completely each and every issue between you and your spouse, and then determine how far you are willing to negotiate over each issue. I recently had a client tell me the most important issue to him was that he not share his entire pension with his wife. We reviewed all the issues together and identified in advance other issues we would be willing to negotiate more liberally. The foresight that this kind of preparation provided us went a long way in helping us make calm, clear and conscious decisions during the mediation process.
- Prepare: It will not be possible to have a successful divorce mediation without preparation. It is important that you define clearly each and every issue between you and your spouse. Make an Excel spreadsheet listing all significant marital property and debt. For each issue you list, make sure that you have supporting proof. The quality of your proof will be critical in the negotiations, and in complicated cases we do not recommend a mediation without first completing the discovery process.
- Reach resolution on as many issues as possible prior to mediation: Divorce mediation is difficult. Mediating issues to which there is very little disagreement is wasteful. On complex cases, I will often have a CPA sitting with me and my client, as will my client’s spouse, which will cost well over $1,000 per hour! Work hard prior to mediation to identify and resolve issues not needing the help of the mediator. This will save you time and money so you can focus your resources on the more difficult issues.
- Work with a therapist: Working with a therapist can provide an objective and rational perspective and arm you with the necessary skills to navigate the difficult waters of divorce. People who rely on therapy during this time benefit from learning more about themselves and may see the life transition as an opportunity for growth and personal development. A good therapist can also help you become more aware of the legal aspects of your case because you will be able to clearly see your legal options free of emotional clutter.
- Be realistic: In spite of your best efforts, your divorce mediation will bring difficulties and unexpected surprises. You are going to have to “roll with it” and be flexible. Many times it comes down to a simple cost benefit analysis: What’s it going to cost to get what I want vrs. What will be the value of what I want when I get it! You may find that certain things you think you want are not all that valuable after all.
These simple steps should help you have a clear strategy based upon sound information and a stable mind with which to make good decisions. With the help of a good divorce lawyer, your therapist and a qualified mediator, you will have a good chance of reaching your goals.