Mediation can be an important tool for divorcing couples. It spares divorcing couples significant time and expense that would be required to litigate their divorce. To that end, check out this 9-step divorce mediation checklist compiled by experienced St. Louis divorce mediation lawyers.
More importantly, it can save a lot of grief and other painful emotions that come up during an ugly divorce trial. This can make it easier for spouses to work together after a divorce in order to parent their children. St. Louis divorce mediator Jennifer Rench has years of experience negotiating financial and parenting issues. She has helped many couples reach settlements that are right for their families, and she can help you, too. Call (314) 328-5423 today to schedule your free consultation.
Here are some things to consider before you agree to mediation with your spouse:
1. Will you be safe throughout the divorce mediation process?
Domestic violence is a very real concern for many St. Louis families. In these cases, it is not always safe for one spouse to be in the same room as the other. Tense divorce negotiations can be especially provoking for someone with anger management problems. In these cases, it is often better (and safer) for spouses to conduct negotiations through their attorneys. Start Here has a list of resources available to domestic violence victims in the St. Louis area. Be sure to get a safety plan in place before initiating divorce proceedings against an abusive spouse.
2. Have you considered what you want?
For many people, separation and divorce can be a whirlwind process. While you have likely considered the emotional fallout from the breakup of your marriage, have you given any thought to your financial future? Whether your marriage has multiple assets or very little marital property, you should go into your mediation with an idea of your preferred outcome.
There are a lot of questions to be answered before the mediation begins, especially in high-asset divorces. Who will remain in the home? Who will keep mementos or keepsakes collected during the marriage? How will marital debt be divvied up? It is in your best interest to develop answers to these questions before the mediation process begins.
3. Have you considered your triggers or reactions?
Before you go into mediation, it is helpful to take into account the words or actions that might trigger an emotional response. While mediation might not be as litigious as a trial, the process can be stressful for those who come unprepared.
Think about what your spouse might say or do during the course of a mediation. Go through the possibility that your former spouse says something personal or steps out of bounds. Being prepared for this scenario could ensure that your reaction does not complicate your case. Make a conscious decision regarding how you plan to respond if the other party says something that could trigger your anger. You have the ability to choose any path you want in this situation. Select one that will not complicate the process further.
4. Have you taken your spouse into account?
It is important during the divorce mediation process that you take the steps necessary to protect yourself emotionally and financially. However, it can be beneficial to consider that your spouse might be in a different place than you psychologically. It is not uncommon for the parties to a divorce to react differently. Some go through a grieving process while others do not. Consider how your spouse is reacting the dissolution of your marriage, as it could give you some insight into the choices they make when negotiating your divorce.
5. Have you looked for areas of agreement?
One of the first steps most mediators will take is to identify the common ground between two spouses. Even in the most contentious divorces, it is not unusual for the spouses to find at least some common ground on things like marital asset distribution.
Before you take on the contentious issues, look for areas of agreement and common ground. This could not only get the mediation off on the right foot, it could also help you crystalize the real issues that the mediation should be focusing on.
While looking for areas of agreement is helpful, that does not mean you should compromise for the sake of compromising. You can look for areas of agreement without giving up on the things that are important to you.
6. Are you thinking about the long-term?
It is easy for many people going through a divorce to focus on the recent past or the present. Often, the divorce process is overshadowed by fighting or infidelity. It is important to remember that your divorce mediation is not about getting even or “winning” the divorce. Ultimately, your goal is to secure a fair resolution of your marriage estate and prepare for the future.
In the end, divorce is about moving on to the next stage of your life. Focus on that goal moving forward, and take every step with the ultimate goal of securing your financial future in mind.
7. Do you have all the documentation you need to make informed decisions?
In the litigation process, attorneys have the power to issue subpoenas and compel your spouse to testify under oath. The judge has the authority to compel this documentation and testimony and can hold your spouse in contempt of court if he or she refuses. These are important tools. In circumstances where one spouse is hiding assets or simply not being completely honest, they can help bring out all the facts that are needed to make fair decisions.
In litigation, each side agrees to provide the documentation that is needed to make informed decisions about settling the case. Many couples do this willingly and without incident. But if your spouse has hidden bank accounts, unscrupulous business dealings, or secret activities that are not in your kids’ best interests, he or she will probably not volunteer this information. In such cases, it is often necessary to go to court simply to force your spouse to produce the evidence to which you are entitled.
8. Are you focused on debts as well as assets?
For many people, divorce mediation is about obtaining a fair share of spousal support or marital property. However, you should also keep in mind that your marital debts should also be an issue for mediation. If you are saddled with an unfair share of the marital debts, it could wipe out any fair distribution of assets you might have secured.
One important thing to remember is that not all debts are marital debts. Any obligations owed prior to your marriage by your spouse may not be your obligation. Do you not take on the responsibility for debts that are not required under the law.
9. Are you willing to keep an open mind?
The goal of mediation is to come up with solutions that work for both spouses. It is almost certain that neither person will get exactly what he or she wants. But the mediation process can be used to come up with creative solutions that are best for the family. Both spouses must come to the process with an open mind. If you come to the mediation process determined to get exactly what you want, mediation is likely to fail. (You are also likely to be disappointed at the end of the litigation process. Judges rarely – if ever – side entirely with one spouse over the other on every single issue before the court.) It is important not to start mediation by making demands. You should also not have preconceived notions about what is “fair,” and what you must get, or your spouse must not get.
Mediation is a voluntary process. This means that no one can force you to accept a settlement at mediation – both spouses must agree to it. Because of this, you can go into the mediation process with an open mind, knowing that you will not be forced to accept a settlement against your will. Be willing to listen to the many suggestions and solutions that are discussed. You will likely hear ideas that you had not thought of before. Even if a particular idea isn’t quite right, it could lead you to consider other solutions, and come up with something that fits for your family. The more open-minded and creative everyone is, the more effective mediation can be.
Call Today to Explore Your Options with a St. Louis Divorce Mediation Lawyer
Mediation is a powerful method of resolving divorces both quickly and cost-effectively. Hopefully this 9-step divorce mediation checklist has offered some useful information. By learning more about mediation, you can decide if it is right for you and your family.
Attorney Jennifer Rench is a skilled divorce mediation lawyer who is committed to helping individuals resolve their family law disputes as favorably as possible. To schedule a consultation with Ms. Rench, call our office today at (314) 207-0641 or contact us online.
This blog was originally written on November 30, 2019 and updated on July 13, 2021.