Most couples in a divorce are often estranged and find themselves at opposing sides when making sensitive decisions such as child custody and the splitting of assets. In such an instance, couples can engage in an effective way to communicate and reach an agreement on issues through divorce mediation.

A divorce mediation agreement aims to effectively aid divorcing spouses to resolve conflicts and strengthen communication for the overall well-being of their children and themselves in a post-marital life.

A divorce mediator helps to ease the tension by pinpointing the conflicting issues and helps parties to review their options.

This guide is a compilation of effective tips that will be useful for spouses that have opted for divorce mediation.

Agree to mediate

The first and probably the most important consideration to be made by the divorcing parties is to mutually agree to submit to an independent mediator who would guide them in resolving their conflicts. The success of a mediation process largely depends on the willingness of both parties to make things work.

Parties should discuss how to end their marriage most efficiently by weighing the most suitable medium for working out their disagreements. A decision to mediate must be made after considering its advantages and disadvantages and whether it is suitable for both of you.

Once you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse decide to go through divorce mediation, there will be preliminary issues to deal with. For instance, the meeting dates, payment of the mediator's fees, whether each spouse is to meet with the mediator alone or both of you together.

Such discussions could be made in person, over the phone, via text messages, or through emails.

Consider your triggers and reactions

Individually, divorcing spouses have to be mentally prepared on how they will approach and react to issues. Failure to handle your emotions well may lead to a breakdown in the process or you could miss out on the crucial points you needed to make in the eventual agreement.

You must realize that your spouse may deliberately provoke you in the mediation process, which may trigger some negative reactions and responses. There should be a firm resolve on the part of the parties to see through issues and find a mutual stand.

Here are tips to try in your preparation for mediation:

  • Think of things that your ex-partner may likely say that may trigger negative emotions from you.
  • What will you do before you respond? Take a breath and remind yourself of the importance of keeping your emotions under?
  • Will you ignore outrageous comments altogether?
  • What are you going to do if your ex-partner evades or ignores issues that are sensitive to you?

The parties must make a conscious decision before the commencement of the mediation to react and respond rationally to any provoking trigger rather than acting abrasively or aggressively.

Divorce mediation should be approached like a business negotiation. Parties must be open to compromise, and readily listen and try to understand each other's point of view.

Time is money

There must be a conscious effort by parties to a divorce mediation not to lose sight of the purpose of the mediation process, which is to find mutual working ground on issues such as co-parenting, child, and spousal support.

You should not spend time being angry, irritable, or playing the blame game. Certain restraints should be exercised to achieve positive results rather than defeating the whole essence of the process, resulting in a total waste of time and money.

It is advisable to contain your feelings of bitterness and keep your anger in check because these negative emotions can get in the way of progress.

Do your homework

Upon a mutual agreement to mediate in divorce, the next step is to conduct research and gather all necessary documents and records that may be required in the mediation process.

Child support, spousal support, retirement accounts, division of marital property and debt are all issues that should be highlighted and noted down for discussions.

It is a common question for spouses new to divorce mediation to ask - "What should I bring with me?"

Firstly, you should discuss with either their divorce lawyer to make inquiries on the nature of the mediation process, what is to be expected, and on the relevant documents to be required by the mediator.

Documents that you can consider bringing to the mediator include:

  • certified copy of the marriage certificate
  • court filings
  • list of assets such as real property (house, rental properties, vacation homes) and personal property (books, DVDs, furniture, artwork, jewelry)
  • past W2 and/or 1099's
  • additional documents you think may be useful

In most state jurisdictions, a financial affidavit that is a sworn statement about one's finances (which includes income, expenses, debts, and assets) is often required to determine the amount of child and spousal support to be granted.

One thing you can do to aid a smooth mediation process is to draft the affidavit as you gather information. This draft can be amended as you progress, and the final version will have a chance at perfection.

Additionally, you would be able to use it as a guide on the financial issues to be discussed during the mediation process.

Set goals

In addition to having the requisite documents available, you should set the goals and objectives you intend to achieve through the mediation.

Having notes would help you identify your stance and the terms that you would be willing to concede to. However, rigidity is discouraged as you should be willing to make sacrifices and reach a fair compromise with your ex-spouse.

Post-divorce goals to move forward with life should also be outlined and be considered in the mediation. Making a comparison between current financial status and a projection of financial status after the divorce is equally important. This helps you decide what would be needed, especially if children (custody) are in the picture.

You should ensure that the financial decisions are separated from the parenting decisions and avoid using one to influence the other. Engaging in emotionally blackmailing actions such as negotiating on custody or visitation wants in exchange for financial wants should be avoided.

Therefore, you need to analyze your current financial reality and project your finances after the divorce.

Think about your kids

The first and most important focus of spouses with children should be to maintain their children's health and overall well-being. Therefore, when approaching a divorce mediator, you and your partner need to keep an open mind and be willing to accept new ideas and suggestions bearing in mind that the desired target is to be able to effectively co-parent without causing any harm to their children emotionally.

Divorce mediation pushes parents to maintain a united front and make decisions that not only impact them but the family while discussing issues regarding money, property, and assets. The needs of the children must be considered by divorcing spouses to rank above any other needs, even if it means accepting a less than ideal custody schedule. Both parents are to also consider how each decision will affect the children.

By approaching mediation with a willingness to work together to find resolutions on issues relating to the welfare of their children that would be of mutual benefit to both spouses, problems are being eliminated, and an enabling environment for co-parenting is being created.

Parenting classes are also advisable to help ease the transition into co-parenting. It also guides how best to maintain a working relationship between the divorced spouses to parent their children, manage anger, reduce conflict, and communicate with each other to achieve results in the children's best interests.

In most states, co-parenting classes are mandatory for divorcing couples, which they must attend before the delivery of judgment dissolves the marriage.

Hire a competent divorce mediator

Another important consideration to be made before the commencement of divorce mediation is choosing a mediator who would assist both you and your ex-spouse in resolving issues amicably and arriving at a suitable compromise.

As the issues to be covered in the mediation are highly personal and sensitive, a mediator to be agreed on must be a professional in the field, who possesses knowledge, skill, and experience in divorce mediation matters.

It is important to learn how to find a good divorce mediator because choosing a highly confidential and skilled expert mediator with the requisite skill and experience will impact the outcome of the process.

In some countries like the United States, where mediation is unregulated, proper and careful consultations should be made when deciding on a divorce mediator. This is to ensure a smooth running of the process and effective handling of the issues by an expert in that field. Oftentimes, the better-qualified mediator will lead to a better-quality mediation experience.

In this regard, the divorcing spouses must conduct proper and in-depth research with regards to educational qualification, years of experience, formal training, and professional certifications acquired by the intended mediator.

Don't Pay for Unnecessary Divorce Mediation Services

In settling for divorce mediation, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse should mutually agree on the areas in which they require the services of the mediator and present such facts to the mediator to avoid bearing the burden of paying for ancillary services not required.

Parties should take care to ensure that they are only being charged for the services they require.

Figure Out How You Will Pay for Divorce Mediation

You should be mindful of the mediator's charges and whether it falls within what you or your ex-partner can afford. A mediator's fees can be between $4000 – $7000, depending on the level of expertise and number of sessions. It is best to set out how the divorce mediation cost is to be paid by the parties and whether both parties are to bear the costs equally or not.

In settling for divorce mediation, parties are to bear in mind their financial situations and should avoid putting a large financial constraint on themselves.

Take care of yourself

Divorce mediation sessions are usually financially, psychologically, and emotionally exhausting. In most cases, it brings about a negative effect on a person's personal and work life.

A proper plan should therefore be in place on how best to approach this situation without being adversely affected and disturbed. Anxiety, worry, and feelings of hopelessness tend to becloud the mind and decision-making.

The goal of divorce mediation is to arrive at co-parenting and related decisions that are amenable to both parties. Such life-altering decisions cannot be made without being clear-headed. Otherwise, it would result in an unfair settlement and a later regrettable outcome.

Enlisting the help of a divorce coach or a therapist during this significant life event should be considered.

Don't involve friends/family in your divorce proceedings

Divorce is first and foremost about parties to a marriage agreement and decisions in that regard should therefore be between them. Friends and family, while well-intentioned, do not need to be privy to every challenge you face in life, particularly on the issue of divorce.

Divorce proceedings need clear heads, and a friend or family member who is strongly biased in your favor or otherwise can negatively influence your opinion and cause unnecessary conflict.

Instead, let them be your emotional support system. Let your friends and family know how they can help you during this time and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Don't over involve them, but don't ignore your relationships altogether during your divorce. You should be able to draw the "information" line where you either verify objectively whatever information they have to offer, or you wait till you find out the truth. Because they want you to "win", you cannot underestimate the kind of information they will give you to trigger a battle-ready stance from you.

Enlisting the help of neutral professionals such as a divorce mediator is rather advised to be properly advised on the information necessary to make educated decisions on the life-altering issues that affect the welfare of the parties and their children.

Don't make financial commitments before your divorce agreement is worked out

The damaging effect on finances is arguably one of the most devastating impacts of divorce. While working on getting a divorce and mediating on issues such as child and spousal support, visitation rights, and division of assets, parties should always consider their financial state and avoid making decisions that would affect their finances.

Therefore, avoid making any form of financial commitment to anyone during the process. Attempting to make these commitments before a settlement agreement is drafted can have drastic effects on your finances. You need to get all the facts right.

Finally, there are the tax consequences of divorce.

During the divorce mediation process, parties are to determine responsibility between spouses for payment of taxes, allocation of estimated tax payments, tax refunds, carryovers, and potential recapture.

The general rule is that asset transfers during divorce or related to a divorce have no tax consequences. However, depending on you and your spouse's stakes in different assets allocated at dissolution, the subsequent sale of assets awarded at divorce could result in high tax consequences.

You would need to find out more details about the tax payable on your proposed arrangement from your lawyer or a tax consultant in your state.