how divorce mediation works

Divorce is often considered one of the most stressful events one may ever experience. Even under the best of circumstances, divorce can leave you and your family feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Choosing mediation is a great first step towards making your divorce go as smoothly and quickly as possible. 

Mediation has become a popular alternative to standard legal actions such as arbitration or lawsuits, especially during a divorce. Mediation allows divorcing couples to solve their conflicts in a more constructive, affordable, and friendlier way. 

The Mediation Process in 5 Stages

Divorce mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process. A divorce mediator helps couples identify, understand, discuss, negotiate, and resolves all of the issues that need resolving in your divorce. This can include a parenting plan and time sharing, child support, alimony, division of marital property and debts, and much more. Though divorce mediators cannot give you legal advice or tell you what to do, the mediator’s ultimate goal is to help you reach a settlement agreement you both find fair. 

The mediation process typically includes the following five stages:

1)  Introductory Stage

In this stage, the mediator introduces him or herself to the involved parties and explains how things will work. During this process, the mediator establishes trust between the parties. The mediator is in charge of the divorce mediation process, and everyone’s roles are clearly defined.

2)  Information-Gathering Stage

The information-gathering stage is to help you and your spouse determine how to determine and negotiate a settlement. The mediator will first discuss the general legal rules that may apply to your case, which can include state laws regarding alimony, child support, taxes, and life insurance. 

Your mediator will ask you and your spouse to provide financial documents such as tax returns, bank and mortgage statements, and more to help determine how assets and debts will be divided. The assembly and summary of your and your spouse’s financial information may take more than one session, depending on how much information is still needed.

3)  Framing Stage

In the framing stage, the mediator helps each spouse outline their reasons for wanting certain outcomes in the settlement. These reasons can consist of individual concerns, priorities, goals, and values, often referred to by divorce mediators as “needs and interests.” Identifying these needs and interests helps the mediator and the couple frame the core goal of the mediation. Doing so will help the couple address topics of concern—property and debt division, child custody and support, alimony—so they achieve the fairest settlement possible. 

4)  Negotiating Stage

Once the mediator helps each spouse frame their needs and interests, it’s time to negotiate an acceptable agreement. With the mediator’s guidance, the spouses discuss and evaluate possible options that may work best for both parties. To successfully negotiate an appropriate settlement, both parties must be active, respectful participants who are willing to compromise. The problem-solving aspect of negotiation cannot be emphasized enough here. Each spouse should understand that getting locked into zero-sum bargaining isn’t helpful or productive for any of the parties involved. Ultimately, the settlement should address each party’s most important interests as fully as possible. 

5)  Concluding Stage

During the final stage of the mediation process, the tentative settlement agreement is put into writing and reviewed by each party and their advisors. The mediator will then prepare a memorandum outlining the settlement agreement, which each party will sign, if they agree to the terms. A written settlement will then be filed with the court. 

Advantages of Divorce Mediation

While divorce can be a highly emotional and expensive process, couples who choose divorce mediation are able to end their marriage amicably and respectfully, without breaking the bank. Divorce mediation is an attempt to help couples settle contested issues and reach a final agreement that’s fair for both parties. It’s the mediator’s responsibility to serve both parties equally, encourage open communication and problem solving, and help couples work out the details of their divorce in a more holistic, peaceful way. 

Here are the main benefits of divorce mediation:

Less expensive. Rather than paying for separate lawyers for each party, couples who choose divorce mediation will only work with one mediator—an unbiased third party. 

Faster process. Divorce mediation only takes a few months. With divorce mediation, you have the flexibility to schedule meetings when it’s best for you, instead of waiting on court dates or working around your attorney’s busy schedule. 

Complete control. Through mediation, you and your spouse make all of the decisions instead of leaving the decisions up to a judge. The mediator facilitates discussions, helping you and your spouse reach an agreement on every issue of your divorce. Divorce mediation makes it possible for both parties to win. 

Benefits children. When parents can work together with the guidance of a mediator, it allows them to focus on their children’s needs, as opposed to “winning the case.” A mediator can also help guide them in finding a parenting plan that best suits their child’s needs, so they can successfully co-parent their child even after the divorce.  

Read our post on The Benefits of Divorce Mediation vs. Hiring an Attorney to further explore the benefits of divorce mediation.

How to Prepare for Divorce Mediation

A mediator’s ability to effectively help you greatly relies on how promptly and thoroughly you have prepared. When you’re prepared, your mediator will be able to put more of their time, energy, and resources into guiding you and your spouse toward an equitable resolution. 

To properly ascertain how assets and debts will be divided, the divorce mediators at NYDMG will need a collection of financial documents. Some of these documents include: 

  • Federal and State Tax Returns
  • Bank and Brokerage Statements
  • Retirement Plan Statements 
  • Life Insurance Policies 
  • Non-Retirement Investments such as Stocks, Bonds, Secured Notes, Mutual Funds
  • Property with Significant Value (Jewelry, Antiques, Art, Coin Collections)
  • Credit Cards
  • Student Loans

How NYDMG Can Help  

Our compassionate team at New York Divorce Mediation Group offers personalized divorce support to best suit you and your family’s specific needs. Divorce is a problem to be solved, not a battle to be won. That’s why we pride ourselves in helping families focus on alternatives to the court system through mediation. Working as a team, we can achieve a successful resolution with the costly court battle. Call us today at (516) 749-5017 to speak with one of our experienced divorce mediation attorneys on Long Island.

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