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Contemplating divorce and unsure how to proceed? It's only natural to feel nervous about finding the right way to end a marriage- which is always a stressful time with lots of uncertainties. If you have decided that staying out of the fray of negative, time-consuming, and often cost prohibitive litigation is the right choice for you, you will likely be on the hunt for a good divorce mediator.
A good divorce mediator can help you and your spouse come to a mutually agreeable settlement that works for everyone. Not only can mediation help with reducing expenses, expediting resolution and allow for discretion, but it also helps you hold the helm of your divorce and remain in control because you will be the decision maker, not the court. However, not all divorce mediators are created equal. The following 7 Key Skills can help you know what to look for when choosing your divorce mediator:
7 Key Skills to look for in a Good Divorce Mediator:
(1) Figure out and focus on what the real issues are in your divorce or separation.
A good mediator will help you separate out the emotional factors of your divorce or separation and assist you in determining what the real, workable issues are that will enable you and your spouse to move forward with your lives.
(2) Help you formulate your goals and keep you on track.
It’s easy to get off track in the middle of an emotional process such as divorce or separation. A good divorce mediator will help you formulate reasonable goals and gently redirect you to keep your focus on those goals.
(3) Ensure that the settlement process is fair for both parties:
- The divorce mediator does not take sides.
- Good divorce mediators ensure that both parties are aware of their rights, what the “norm” is in various situations, and what might happen from a financial and tax perspective given the settlement options being considered.
- Where children are concerned, a good divorce mediator will help you and your spouse think through how various child custody arrangements may affect your children’s overall wellbeing.
- A good divorce mediator is always neutral and appears comfortable to both parties in this neutral role. A good divorce mediator ensures that the end result – the final settlement – is fair to both parties.
(4) Help you sort through and prioritize all the facts, feelings, details, and finances of your case so that you can EFFICIENTLY begin formulating a plan today and for your future:
- The divorce mediator will help you make a list of necessary documents and information to gather so that you do not get overwhelmed at this emotionally difficult time.
- A good divorce mediator will help you pick and choose your “battles.”
- A good divorce mediator will help you plan for today and, depending on your circumstances, create goals and settlement details for both the medium and long-term.
- A good mediator will help you be realistic about what the division of finances between two households will mean and help you think through ways to lighten the impact of that change.
- A good mediator will craft your settlement agreement to account for the children’s (if you have them) inevitable growth and change over time.
A good divorce mediator will educate you regarding relevant legal, financial, tax, and child-related information that will help you make a good decision for you, your spouse, and your children’s future. The divorce mediator won’t make decisions for you but he or she will give you the tools and guidance you need to make your own well-informed decisions.
(6) Facilitate meaningful discussion:
- A good divorce mediator uses negotiation facilitation techniques to move you toward peacefully settling your case.
- Some of these techniques include finding common ground, neutralizing language, and a no-nonsense approach to dealing with the realities of the situation for both parties and their children.
- This is a more efficient, less expensive, compassionate process than the adversarial attorney-driven style of negotiation.
(7) Write up your settlement agreement:
- A good divorce mediator writes and presents you with a court-ready document (called a Mediated Marital Settlement Agreement and MSA, a Memorandum of Understanding, or a Marital Settlement Agreement).
- A settlement agreement drafted by a mediator is guaranteed to be neutral and to reflect exactly what the two of you agreed upon in mediation.
- For most people, this is the most important contract that they will ever sign in their life. That is why having an experienced mediator who is also a lawyer is your best bet for writing an enforceable, well-drafted Mediated Marital Settlement Agreement and MSA.
A good divorce mediator can make a world of difference and, also, keep you out of court. When choosing your divorce mediator, ask plenty of questions, and look for the 7 Key Skills.
By Erin J. Koffman, Attorney & Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator
and Robin Graine, JD, CDFA