Divorce has to be a win-win or it will be a lose-lose. There is no such thing as a win-lose in divorce. Mediation works best when people let go of preconceived positions of how their case should be settled. Anxiety, fear or anger can lead people to “glom” onto a particular solution. In doing so, people often overlook comparable or superior alternatives. Mediation is a process. Therefore, you should let the mediator know your particular concerns so that he or she can tailor the process accordingly. Start gathering financial information and master the data. What are your assets, liabilities and monthly living expenses? Organizing information will make decision-making easier. Mediation is based on informed decision making. Consult with an attorney prior to reaching agreements in mediation; it is hard to go back and take offers off the table. Avoid attacking or criticizing your spouse in mediation — it doesn’t work. Attacking your spouse will not persuade him or her to agree with you; it will simply anger your spouse and make him or her angry and defensive. If your spouse takes a position that you don’t agree with, look for a way to give him or her way to change their position without losing face. Humiliating someone will not bring them around to your point of view.
Jerald A. Kessler is a family law attorney with a full-time divorce-mediation practice in Highland Park, Evanston, and Libertyville, IL. He is a past-president of the Mediation Council of Illinois and an Advanced Practitioner Member of the Association for Conflict Resolution.