Teeing Up A Successful Divorce Mediation: Five Tips

Divorce mediation is a process, an opportunity to work out a resolution of some or all aspects of a divorce.

Not all divorces can be resolved without a court, but many do work out their own solutions for a variety of reasons:  cost of litigation, time spent in the legal process, the stress of the divorce process itself, the needs of the children who need stability sooner rather than later….and the list goes on.  So, what contributes to a successful divorce mediation?

Tip One.    Be prepared.

Be prepared to discuss dollars, values, schedules, and more.  Even if you have a legion of divorce professionals representing and advising you, create cheat sheets.  Bring a calendar.  Bring a calculator.  Have a working knowledge of the moving parts.

Tip Two.  Be motivated.

When both parties to a divorce mediation are motivated to move on with their lives, bring stability to the children, or at least some desire to get out of a rut, the results in mediation – where everyone has set aside time to work out the issues – can be swift.

Tip Three.  Bring Three Ideas for You and Three Ideas for Him/Her.

Before you get to the mediation session itself, a party should have sketched out at least three scenarios that would be acceptable to him or her.  Then, do the same from the other party’s perspective.  This second step is what professional negotiators do to maximize their strategy and to consider ways to encourage/entice the other side to go along with their proposal.  It is often the step skipped by divorcing parties (and, tragically, by their legal counsel).

Tip Four.   Let Go of  “Why.”

Too often, parties in mediation spend time in the dispute as if they were still married, trying to convince the other person that their reasons for X is right.   In divorce mediation, the parties do not have to agree on “why” they have agreed to do something.   That can be liberating.

Tip Five.  Bring Comforts.

Mediation sessions can be long.  Bring snacks, beverages, medicines, lower-back pillow for office chairs or other items that you may need to be physically comfortable.   Also, know that you can suspend the mediation and reconvene later if an emergency occurs or you become too tired to make good decisions.

There are other significant steps that can be taken to tee-up a successful mediation, but these five tips above certainly can put you on the path to making the most of your opportunity at your divorce mediation.



Divorce Mediation: Options When “The House” is Underwater

Often a divorce will involve a decision about “who gets” the marital residence (and any mortgage associated with it).  The marital residence usually is one of the largest assets for any family, so it can take a prominent position in settlement negotiations and/or what a judge may do with it.

underwater-mortgage-300x200Selling the marital home and dividing up the proceeds of the sale used to be an easy proposition, but not now.  Selling the marital home can be hard in divorce, particularly where so many more homes have mortgage balances that are greater than the potential sale price.  When this occurs, the home is often described as being “underwater,” meaning more is owed on the home than it is worth.

In divorce mediations, the issues related to a marital home that is underwater can be tough, but not impossible.  Where a couple decides not to sell the marital home that would result in immediate debt, some common options include:

  1. Refinancing the mortgage in the name of the spouse who will retain the marital home;
  2. If refinancing the mortgage is impractical, typically the spouse who keeps the house will also agree to pay the mortgage and protect the non-paying spouse with a reimbursement and indemnification clause;
  3. Consulting with a Financial Professional regarding the use of retirement benefits, such as 401(k) accounts, to address the mortgage;
  4. Consulting with a tax professional or attorney regarding the tax implications of the spouse who may pay alimony and child support to the other spouse when that paying spouse pays for the mortgage on the other spouse’s home where the children primarily reside;
  5. Consulting with an attorney regarding the pros and cons of foreclosure and/or bankruptcy.

There are other options and rarely a perfect answer to these financial quandaries.  The good news seems to be that the economy is starting to show signs of recovery, rumblings that may make the “underwater” market less deep.