Regardless of whether you will be participating in mediation on a voluntary basis or through a court order, it is important to maximize your time to achieve the most desirable outcome. Even though mediation is a collaborative effort intended to bestow mutual accord, this does not mean it will be smooth sailing, or even that any agreements will be made. Successful mediation requires a lot more than two opposing sides sitting in a room, here’s how to get the most out of it:
Come to mediation with a plan.
Regardless of the pending issues in your family law matter, it is helpful to come prepared to your mediation session with a list of what you are looking for and hope to get out of the process. This will provide you with something to refer back to throughout the process of mediation. For example, if you have court ordered mediation for child visitation, it may be helpful to outline the specific holidays that are important to you, what your ideal parenting schedule would look like, etc.
Entering mediation without a plan is like going on a road trip without directions. You might end up where you want but it’s going to take you a lot longer to get there.
Be open and honest during mediation.
The role of the mediator is not to give advice, but rather to assist the parties in identifying the issues that often prevent parties from being able to come to an agreement, reducing misunderstandings, and helping to elucidate each party’s interests and priorities in the matter. By providing parties with an opportunity to have an open discussion and begin a dialogue about what they are each hoping to get out of the process, as well as eventually explore possible solutions that may satisfy the interests of all parties involved, the mediation process helps to facilitate resolution of contested issues outside of the courtroom.
Be ready to compromise in mediation.
The dreaded compromise, who wants that anyway? Typically, the people who want to save money, time, and tears are the ones who may be willing to compromise. They may not even actually want to compromise, but they do it because they can see the bigger picture and understand it is more advantageous in the long run.
Compromise is not to be confused with being weak or giving in on issues you really stand for. Going back to step 1, if you properly identified what you want and why, it makes the compromising go a lot smoother. If you are able to communicate to your ex your reasons–whether emotional, financial or even personal attachments—to whatever is in question, your success rate of obtaining it will be higher.
It’s important to remember that you are NOT obligated to agree to anything during mediation. If a proposal is discussed during mediation and you are unsure about something, or something doesn’t sound quite right, you can always say you need some time to think about it, and you want to discuss it with your attorney (that is what we are here for) and bring it back to us for discussion. It is much easier, and better, to do that, opposed to agreeing to something during mediation and reneging on it later.