As we continue the conversation on Your Divorce Team, another essential member is your Mediator. As mentioned in the Types of Divorce, most divorces are settled outside of the courtroom. About 95%. Unless you or your soon-to-be ex-spouse want to surrender your decision-making power completely to a judge and spend enormous amounts of money on attorney fees, hiring a mediator to help you and your spouse review how each of you would like to move forward in the divorce and in the separation of your lives as a couple.
So how do you find the right mediator for you and your spouse? A mediator is a third party, neutral person who will be the go-between for two parties. In divorce, your mediator will specialize in family law and will help you and your soon-to-be ex navigate the items which you will need to decide upon for your divorce. Your mediator will essentially help guide both of you to come up with agreements. These agreements are the building blocks which over the years of marriage you and your spouse have created as the foundation of your marriage. Within mediation, you are now working to disassemble each piece one at a time so that each of you has enough blocks to start creating a new foundation for your new life as individuals.
As you look at each piece, different emotions may arise and even if you were the one who wanted the divorce, the grief may cause you to pause. This is natural. This is another point where the right mediator is essential as well as any person on Your Team. Anyone who is working with you in your divorce needs to be able to sense when their client needs a pause. Remember the attorney we mentioned last week in the Your Divorce Attorney blog, who is not attuned to understanding when their client is emotionally and mentally done and either needs a pause and needs the divorce to be wrapped up but kept pushing for a trial? A mediator also needs to be able to know if one or either of their clients is in an emotional or mental place to make sound agreements. Agreements made under duress, anxiety, or panic do not serve you or your spouse, especially if you are making agreements regarding finances or co-parenting. Remember, a mediator is a neutral person who should want the best for both you and your ex. If the mediator cannot read their client’s mental, emotional, and even physical cues to know if one spouse has their walls up, came to the mediation session but intends to dig in their heels and say no to any suggestions or if their client came in hangry, these scenarios are not effective in coming up with agreements.
Your Mediator is someone, who is there to help you and your spouse effectively come up with agreements, and as mentioned earlier, help you undo the building blocks of the marriage to help form a new foundation for your new life. If every block is destroyed in the negotiation process of mediation, neither you nor your spouse benefit. If you have children, your children now are affected.
As you are taking the steps toward divorce, is your greatest concern the finances and how to divide up the finances? In this situation, you and/or your spouse may want to look for a mediator who is also a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®). In this situation, your mediator will serve as a neutral financial analyst to help both you and your spouse make the most effective decision in splitting your finances as well as in helping to mediate other concerns. The CDFA® will crunch the numbers for you, look at what the short-term, medium-term, and long-term scenarios will look like based on how you divide up your assets. Some CDFA® may have a background as a Financial Advisor and others may be Accountants. They will both look at any tax liabilities but consulting with your personal accountant to take a second look is recommended. We will take a deeper dive into having a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® as part of Your Divorce Team next week.
Maybe you or your spouse feels comfortable with the financial situation but the future of your children is of greater concern. In this situation, you may want a mediator who specializes in Co-Parenting. Working with a mediator who focuses on co-parenting will help you and your spouse to put together a schedule that works for you and your spouse but mostly a schedule that works best for your children.
Having an expert who understands and senses the potential triggers, a mediator who specializes in co-parenting will help you and your spouse avoid these landmines and come up with a plan what serves all parties.
THE RIGHT MEDIATION FOR YOU
In certain cases where both finances and co-parenting may be of equal concern, you may consider hiring two separate mediators who specialize in these areas to help you and your spouse come up with the best agreements for your family.
In mediation, remember that the mediator is not there to choose what is best for you and your spouse in determining what your future life should and will look like. Your Mediator will help you navigate some of the questions and concerns but ultimately, the decision-making rests with you. Mediators are conduits to empower their clients to become agents of their own lives. They may pose questions to you and your spouse look at possible blind spots or lay the various options to choose from on the table so that you can make the best decisions for your family. This situation changes a little if the mediator was hired to help you navigate your divorce in a mediation-arbitration situation or if you and your spouse have hired attorneys to represent you.
In a situation with attorneys, you and your spouse will go into mediation with your respective attorneys and the mediator will “shuttle” from room to room to help with the negotiations. These mediation sessions may be long and exhausting as many of these mediation sessions are all day long.
When you and your soon-to-be spouse hire a mediator to help you navigate your divorce in lieu of hiring attorneys on retainer and going into mediation, you will save money as you now pay for one professional versus three. This equals more money in the marital assets to divide. Also, the sessions may be split over weeks versus making decisions in one sitting.
Shuttle mediation was mentioned as a way your mediator may conduct the mediation with you and your respective attorneys. Even if you do not hire attorneys to represent you, your mediator may choose to conduct shuttle mediation between you and your spouse. Even in the most amicable of situations, there may be a benefit to do shuttle mediation versus keeping all parties in the same room and powering through the agreements. Remember earlier it was mentioned that an effective mediator is one who can read their client’s mental, emotional, and even physical cues? As you and your spouse vet who you will choose to be a part of Your Divorce Team and serve as Your Mediator, ask the potential mediator if they do shuttle mediation and why or why not?
As you and your spouse agree to work with a mediator, even as a neutral, the mediator will be a part of Your Divorce Team. Choose someone you can trust, feel safe and secure with. Choose someone who is willing to hear your needs and someone who is willing to help you and your spouse make the best decision for your family.