If you are going through a divorce, you know exactly how complicated and stressful the process can be. The fact is, however, many California divorces are settled in mediation and never make their way to court. This is because many couples prefer to make major divorce decisions, including child custody arrangements and the division of marital property, themselves – rather than allowing the courts to do it for them. Mediation does not have to be a nerve-wracking experience. In fact, there are six important tips that can help you feel far more comfortable with the mediation process, and to proceed with the confidence and purpose you need to successfully protect you and your children’s rights throughout.
Tip 1: Work with an Experienced California Divorce Attorney
The outcome of your divorce is likely to affect you and your children’s financial futures for many years to come. It is, therefore, imperative that you hire the professional legal services of an experienced California divorce lawyer. The consequences of your mediated divorce settlement are far too important to leave to chance. In most cases you will find it helpful to have a lawyer by your side to make sure any agreement you reach is fair and equitable.
Tip 2: Be Proactive
The better you understand the ins and outs of your divorce case, the better prepared you’ll be for mediation. Nobody knows the details inherent to your divorce as well as you do. Mediation is far more informal than the court process, and you can take an active role. By doing your homework, being very familiar with your married financials, and gathering your thoughts into a cogent narrative related to your divorce, you can greatly improve your chances of hammering out a settlement with your divorcing spouse that works for you.
Tip 3: Participate in the Mediation Process
Mediation is a voluntary, alternative dispute-resolution (“ADR”) process in which the mediator helps both of you identify and negotiate resolutions for every important issue that needs to be addressed. While your experienced divorce attorney will be at your side providing guidance and clarity, mediation is about your future, and fully participating in the process will allow you the opportunity to be truly heard, seen, and understood. Many divorcing spouses find this element of mediation empowering.
Tip 4: Prioritize Your Goals
You and your soon-to-be ex are heading to mediation to attempt to settle important issues that relate to you and your children’s futures. These are extremely important decisions that need to be made. If you can clearly prioritize your goals, it will help you stay the course throughout the mediation process. For instance, if your primary concern involves child custody arrangements that have yet to be resolved, you may be willing to compromise more fully on financial issues – once you lock down your child custody concerns. Coming to terms with the issues that are most important to you and not allowing other issues to cloud your focus can help ensure that you don’t let a side issue derail your priorities.
Tip 5: Have Realistic Expectations
What nearly anyone familiar with the mediation process will tell you is that both you and your divorcing spouse are likely to walk away from mediation feeling less than personally “victorious.” The fact is that mediation is all about compromises, and you will both probably have to make certain compromises that you would rather not. But giving certain things up as a compromise leaves you in control to make your own decisions. Your knowledgeable divorce attorney will coach you about what you are likely to encounter in mediation, where you have some wiggle room, and which compromises you can expect to be the most tolerable and least harmful. When you go into mediation with a good feel for what your expectations should be, it can vastly improve your ability to stay focused on the work ahead and to hammer out a settlement agreement with which you can live comfortably.
Tip 6: Carefully Consider the Alternatives
If you and your spouse cannot find common ground during mediation, your case will likely proceed to court. The fact is that, once your divorce moves into the courtroom, you lose a good deal of control regarding important decisions that will directly affect your life. Mediation gives you the control to decide which compromises you wish to make. The judge in your case will have considerable discretion related to these decisions, and his or her view regarding the best way to resolve your case may be very different from your own. It’s important to recognize, however, that – if your spouse simply refuses to cooperate or you two absolutely cannot come to any kind of mutual agreement – you will need to proceed to court – with your dedicated divorce lawyer’s experienced guidance.