The decision to divorce is never easy. If you don’t know how to handle it, it can turn into a painful experience that will leave scars on your soul.
If a client has chosen – or in some cases, if a court has ordered – mediation, the best thing a local divorce lawyer can do is not to throw their client under the bus by not preparing them for the process. Every divorce case is different; lawyers need to correctly evaluate each case and give very personalized advice to their divorcing clients.
Without further ado, here are some basics on how to prepare for divorce mediation.
1. It Will Be Stressful. If you have dodged the bullet of litigation, you are among the fortunate few. However, having to sit at a table where you’ll have to agree on every aspect of your former life being split in two won’t be a piece of cake. So make sure that the mediator creates a comfortable environment for you. In some cases, your lawyer will be by your side in each session; in others, you may meet with just your ex-spouse and the mediator.
2. Nobody Can Resolve a Divorce Better Than You. As full of rage and hurt as two people on the brink of a separation are, it is a known fact that a judge or an arbiter can’t possibly understand the relationship between them as well as they do. It is only natural then that the divorcing couple should be the ones negotiating their agreement rather than having one imposed on them by someone else.
3. You Will Be in Control. Not being in court has its perks, since a lawyer’s clients will have more control over the decision-making process. Here are a few things that a good lawyer will do to prepare their clients for divorce mediation:
- A lawyer will explain to their client that all settlement proposals should be looked at seriously, and not immediately dismissed; they need to go over them with you after the mediation when the heat of the “battle” has worn down.
- The client must understand that a talk about custody or parenting plan schedule should be discussed before the mediation. That way, they will look more in control during mediation, and they can avoid being ambushed by the other side with surprising claims.
- Make sure the client knows that the mediation can take a day, and in some cases, even two. They will need to clear their schedule of other engagements.
- Most important of all, the lawyer needs to make his/her clients understand that they will have to make difficult decisions. Nothing about divorce mediation is easy, but being prepared for the worst can help them cope with the situation better.
- A client might not be able to reach an agreement during divorce mediation. They should know this from the beginning, and be prepared to hand some control over their personal life to a third party if mediation fails.
- The lawyer should prepare his/her client for negotiation. Especially at this time in their life, people will be at their highest levels of selfishness, due to the pain and frustration that controls their thoughts. So now more than ever, they should be taught how to give a little to get a little.
4. The Benefits of Mediation
- More control. It is imperative that you know what to expect and what you hope to get out of mediation. In mediation, you have the opportunity to help craft an agreement that suits your unique needs and circumstances – instead of having a judge determine the details of your agreement.
- Better understanding of your position. If you’re working with a lawyer before and during the mediation, your lawyer should provide a global view of the issues in your case. In mediation, you need to know what your non-negotiable issues are, and which ones you can and will compromise on. You don’t want to end up in the mediation room not being able to articulate your needs in front of the other side.
- You will get a better agreement. It’s like taking a math test in school – if you’ve studied enough, your grade will reflect that. That being said, make sure you know exactly where you stand in this process, what your rights are, and whether you’re willing to take this to trial if the mediation fails.
To wrap things up, there are a couple of things to remember: a well-informed client is a less tormented client, and a less tormented client will usually make better decisions than one who is blinded by emotions. So make sure you have chosen a lawyer who will help you feel this way. Your lawyer should inform you of the importance of the mediation process, and the consequences for failing to achieve resolution.
Brian J. Musell is a Criminal Lawyer based in Denver, CO. He works on myriad criminal cases including: DUI/DUAI, domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault, and stalking to name a few. MetroDenverCriminalDefense.com