Private Divorce Mediation: Nuances

Actually, many options exist for getting a divorce – often, it just is a matter of how much time at the courthouse a couple will spend.  Private divorce mediation is one way that many couples spend minimal time at the courthouse to obtain their divorce decree.

Private divorce mediation refers to the mutual decision of a couple to participate in mediation in order to resolve the issues of their divorce.  Often, private divorce mediation occurs before a petition is filed with any court.  In other situations, the petition is pending with the court, and the couple has decided to mediate without any order from the court directing them to do so.   Which time is right?  Well, neither.  But, one time may be more conducive to successful negotiations than the other depending on the various nuances of the situation.

Nuances:  Acceptance and Information.  

Acceptance.   There are degrees of acceptance of divorce.   For purposes of private divorce mediation, it simply has to be sufficient that the couple can and will work on the issues instead of on each other.

Where both spouses have a high level of acceptance that the family will change drastically, there often is a commensurate degree of motivation to get to the other side.   Couples who are separated and living apart often have a better understanding of the change because they are living it every day when they wake up and every night when they go to sleep.  The separation is increasingly familiar.  They know what it is costing to live without the other spouse, both financially, socially, and logistically.   This familiarity with the impending future sometimes diminishes the fear and hurt of the break-up substantially.  With emotions running lower, couples often are in a better position to make more rational decisions about divorce – whether in mediation or other settlement discussions.

Information.  To negotiate about anything, you have to know what you’re talking about.  Excluding the children’s issues, in the divorce context, the relevant information that parties typically must obtain include inventories of assets and debts and valuations of them, post-divorce budget projections, and financial and legal information.  It’s no small feat to obtain all of these items.

Most individuals will contact an attorney first.  Consulting an attorney is a wise move, but how, when and why you consult one can make a significant impact on  the bottom line.  You can retain an attorney to represent you in litigation (e.g., big retainer), to handle a defined project (e.g., review the settlement agreement your spouse’s attorney sent over), or to give you legal advice (e.g., the house is titled in his name, does that mean it is his?).   Family lawyers do not come cheap; use them wisely.

Some individuals will get organized.  They run credit reports to get an idea of the debts (all those pesky credit cards), they summarize financial account information with statements into three ring binders, they check Kelly Blue Book for the cars’ values, prepare budgets, price-shop for health insurance, obtain valuation statements of pensions from HR, etc.  Getting organized can be taxing (oh, and they get tax returns).  In the midst of emotional overwhelm, gathering enough steam to get organized can be difficult.

For many families, private divorce mediation is part of their process to get organized on certain issues because they identify “what needs to be done” before they can make a specific decision.  At mediation, it’s not unusual for HR to be called to get COBRA costs, for some pricing on day-care centers to be obtained, or to pull up the online banking records.  So, perfect preparation is not always necessary before divorce mediation occurs, but it is helpful.  On the other hand, some couples will not schedule private divorce mediation until they have greater certainty about the assets and debts at issue.  Therefore, some divorcing couples need the power of the court system to obtain sufficient information to even broach mediation or settlement negotiations:  one spouse will not tender tax returns of the business, spouses are at odds over whether there is or isn’t a retirement fund, one spouse believes the other has been siphoning off money to someone to hold for them until after the divorce concludes, etc.

Many families live paycheck to paycheck.  The prospect of off-shore accounts, hidden trust funds, and more is unlikely.  More likely may be the undisclosed credit card or title loan.  As such, many couples readily have the information they need to discuss the issues of divorce.  If they do, then the appropriateness of private divorce mediation may simply turn on whether they are emotionally ready (see Acceptance above) to do so.

One Mediation is located in Atlanta, Georgia and provides a professional panel of divorce mediators, seminars, and programs for families facing separation and divorce.  For more information, call 404-720-0599 or email to schedule a time for a private divorce mediation or to extend an invitation to mediate to your spouse.



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