For those who are contemplating divorce, or who find themselves in the midst of a divorce, it may seem as if countless issues need to be resolved. It can, at least initially, feel overwhelming, and depending upon the state of your relationship when you decided to divorce, it may seem at times as if it will be possible to come to an agreement on the issues between you. If this sounds familiar, rest assured that those feelings are normal. No divorce is easy. There is a bit of good news though – now, more than ever, there are a wide variety of options available to couples seeking to resolve their issues in a way other than battling it out in a courtroom before a judge. Often couples are surprised by how effective and relatively easy these methods of alternative dispute resolution can be – and one of the most popular methods for resolving disputed divorce issues outside of court is mediation.
What is mediation? It’s a way of resolving your disputes with your spouse outside of court with the assistance of a neutral third party called a mediator, who can help you communicate and effectively work together toward solutions for your problems. Typically, mediation is cheaper, faster, and often more effective than engaging in traditional courtroom litigation. As with any legal matter, however, success is largely dependent upon the parties involved, and on the skill and expertise of their attorneys. In any divorce-related matter, having an attorney who knows and understands the law, and who has experience successfully using mediation as a method of resolution will be essential.
With that said, here are a few tips on how to work toward making your mediation as successful as possible:
- Choose the Right Mediator: There is perhaps no element more critical to the success of your mediation process than selecting the right mediator to guide you through it. In North Carolina, mediation is an unregulated profession. This means that anyone can technically call himself or herself a mediator, even if he or she has not received any training in the field at all. As a result, it’s important to thoroughly research mediators before you select one. Ask your attorney who he or she would recommend. Speak with friends who have gone through a successfully mediated divorce and ask about the mediator they used. Read reviews and check credentials online. Interview more than one mediator before you decide upon who would be best to use. It’s also important to remember that each mediator has his or her style. Some will be more like life coaches, using social and communication skills to help couples communicate cooperate effectively. Others might have a more fact-intensive approach. Sometimes, couples choose a mediator based on his or her particular skill set – for example, a mediator who has a tax or finance background might be extremely helpful to a couple that has several financial and property-related issues. Thinking through what you need and taking these preliminary steps can ensure that you choose a mediator that will work well with you, and with your spouse, and who has the skills, background, and experience necessary to help you work through your issues successfully.
- Identify Your Issues and Define Your Goals: Divorce is no different than many other undertakings in life – if you have a plan or a roadmap ahead of time, you will typically have a greater chance of success. Think through the issues that you have as a couple that need to be resolved, and what your ideal resolutions might be. If you have children, thinking through your ideal custody arrangement in detail and outlining a plan ahead of time can be very helpful. Although it doesn’t necessarily mean that your plan will be approved in its entirety, it gives you a good foundation to build on. Likewise, thinking through the marital property that will need to be divided ahead of time, and coming to the mediation with a proposed plan can save a lot of time, headache, and argument. Thinking through the big picture and knowing what you’ll need to focus on (and avoid) ahead of time will be helpful, and beneficial to everyone in the long run.
- Remain Flexible and Willing to Compromise: This one is important. It’s important to understand that during the divorce process, no one is going to get everything that they want. It simply doesn’t happen. When you go into a negotiation with an inflexible mindset, determined to have your way when it comes to every issue, you set yourself (and everyone else) up for failure. Instead, go into the situation with an open mind – be flexible, and willing to compromise when necessary. Be honest with yourself about what truly matters to you – for example, receiving joint custody, a fair amount of child support, or alimony – and know what you can compromise on or let go. Sure, you might want that particular family heirloom – but in the grand scheme of things, is it worth causing the entire negotiation to fail? Probably not. Stand your ground when you need to, but be willing to let go of some things too.
- Be Respectful and Kind: As with any situation in life, you tend to accomplish far more by being respectful and kind than you do by being sarcastic, unkind, and antagonistic. Realize that even though you may feel some animosity toward your spouse at this stage of your lives, you will accomplish far more by being respectful, communicative, and cooperative than you will otherwise. The same goes for the mediator that you select. Remember – he or she is there to help you work through your issues. Don’t get upset or react harshly every time something doesn’t go your way. Instead, remember that you are working together toward solutions as a team, and to do that, you have to be willing to be a team player.
- Expect Plenty of Emotions: It’s important to acknowledge that divorce is an emotionally difficult situation. There’s no way around it. Even in a mediation where you are working to resolve your issues amicably and cooperatively, there are going to be some hard moments. Be forgiving of yourself and your spouse. Additionally, it can be helpful to mentally prepare yourself ahead of time. Think through your issues and make notes of the things that are most important to you. Planning ahead and acknowledging that there will be some difficult moments before they occur can help you react more calmly and keep your composure when they do. It’s also important to make sure to care for yourself physically and emotionally during this process. Eat well. Exercise. Get plenty of sleep. Taking these steps will help you to be your best, and will make the process more successful for everyone.
- Remain Patient: Even though mediation can be extremely helpful and beneficial, it won’t be easy. It’s important to go into it knowing this, and expecting the process to have its ups and downs. Be patient. You may not resolve all of your issues in the first session – it may take several. That’s okay. Decide to be patient ahead of time, and be willing to work together as you need to to achieve the best solutions for your issues.
These are only a few tips of many to help you go into the mediation process with your best foot forward. Although no aspect of divorce is easy, planning ahead and taking many of these steps can help to ensure that your mediation is productive and successful. Of course, another essential aspect of a successful mediation is having the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who can help ensure that you reach your goals and move forward toward a better and brighter chapter.
Call The Law Office of Dustin McCrary Today
If you find yourself contemplating divorce – or during divorce – and you believe that mediation might be a helpful and successful way for you to resolve your issues, I’m here to help. I’m proud of my record of successfully representing countless clients who have used mediation as a helpful and effective way to work through their issues and achieve results that are satisfactory to everyone involved. I’d love to have the opportunity to help you too. Whether you need legal assistance with the mediation process, or with any other aspect of your divorce, I’m here to help. Call me at any time. I look forward to speaking with you soon.