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.



2013 Divorce Hot Shot Series (Short Presentations for Real People)

 2013 Divorce Hot Shot Calendar

Registration at www.visionsanew.org ($25 per session, Presenters & Location Addresses Online)


Tues., January 8th (Perimeter, 6:30-8:30 p.m.)

“Divorce Orientation”

 Tues., January 15th (Buckhead 7:30-9:30 a.m.)

“Divorce Orientation”

Tues., January 22nd (Buckhead 7:30-9:30 a.m.)

“How Child Support Works”

Tues., January 29th (Perimeter, 6:30-8:30 p.m.)

“Divorce Options & Avenues”



Saturday, February 2nd (Buckhead 10 a.m.-Noon)

“Children Weathering the Storm”

Tues., February 5th (Perimeter, 6:45-8:30 p.m.)

“Divorce Orientation”

Thurs., February 21st (Buckhead 7:30-9:30 a.m.)

“Divorce Orientation”



Tues., March 5th (Perimeter, 6:45-8:30 p.m.)

“Lies & Litigation”

Thurs. March 21st (Buckhead 7:30-9:30 a.m.)

“Divorce Orientation”

Thurs., April 25th (Perimeter, 6:45-8:30 p.m.)

“What if Someone Dates During Divorce?”


Tues., May 7, 2013 (Buckhead 7:30-9:30 a.m.)

“Divorce Orientation”

Tues., May 21, 2013 (Perimeter, 6:45-8:30 p.m.)

“5 Common Financial Mistakes in Divorce”


Tues., June 11, 2013 (Perimeter, 6:45-8:30 p.m.)

“When the Pie Exceeds A Million Bucks”

Tues., June 25, 2013 (Buckhead 7:30-9:30 a.m.)

“5 Common Parenting Mistakes in Divorce”


Wed., August 21st  (Perimeter, 6:45-8:30 p.m.)

“5 Common Legal Mistakes”

Tues., August 27th  (Buckhead 7:30-9:30 a.m.)

 “Divorce Orientation”

Wed., August 28th  (Perimeter, 6:45-8:30 p.m.)

“Finding the Money & Honey”


Tues., September 10th  (Buckhead 7:30-9:30 a.m.)

“Divorce Orientation”

Sat., September 21st  (Buckhead 10 – Noon)

“Children Weathering the Storm”



Does a Divorce Mediator Always Recommend Mediation?

Does a Mediator Always Recommend Mediation?

Andy Flink and JoAnne Donner CDFA

            As mediators, we are frequently asked about how a mediation session works.  By the time we finish explaining the process, everyone has the same response…..that it’s a terrific alternative to litigation and when two people are embroiled in conflict it’s their best option.  But is mediation always a good idea?  Do we always recommend mediation to parties in dispute?  You might be surprised to know that every so often, deciding to mediate two willing parties in a squabble turns out to be a bad idea.

If both sides are openly willing to mediate, why would there be a situation that, after anywhere from one hour to ten hours, everyone wonders why we bothered to meet in the first place?  Here are a dozen reasons why mediation can be unproductive and when it may have been best not to meet at all:

  1. Missing Information.  Rarely is a case resolved in mediation where there is a lack of discovery or incomplete, unverified financial information. There is already mistrust in the room; this simply adds to it.
  2. Lack of respect.  Knowing how to “act” in a mediation session is important.  We tell mediation coaching clients to pause and consider everything the other side is asking for and offering.  If for no other reason than to appear that you are being respectful and considerate of their position, whether or not you really are.  Parties in mediation have a tendency to “show their hand” through body language, tipping off the other side that respect is merely a song by Aretha Franklin.
  3. Unrealistic expectations. “I get everything and you get nothing.”  Once we mediated a case where the plaintiff demanded a 90/10 split as equitable division because “He was the one who worked all the time.”  This kind of extreme thinking is not unusual but can send negotiations into the no-settlement zone.
  4. Bad timing. Fortunately, courts send almost every case through the mediation process.  Unfortunately, it might be before the disputing parties have completed discovery or are emotionally ready to consider settlement.
  5. It’s a fishing expedition.  The other side shows up for the sole purpose of learning everything they can about what the other side’s position is and why.  They have no intention of settling…and sometime during the day you figure this out.
  6. Subject-matter expertise. When a divorce mediator is asked to do landlord/tenant  mediation or a personal injury lawyer represents a client in divorce mediation, it may not work very well.  Typically, there is no substitute for experience and expertise in a specialized niche.
  7. A missing party.  Virtual communication technology is impressive, but when one party is 3,000 miles away in Seattle and the mediation session is in Atlanta, phone or Skype doesn’t always reveal subtle cognitive or behavioral clues.  It may be difficult to know what the long-distance party is really thinking, since much of what mediators look for are not only verbal cues, but physical ones as well.
  8. Schedule conflicts.  You’re seven hours into a mediation working towards a resolution and suddenly one of the parties declares they have a prior commitment.  While they had plenty of opportunity to reveal this information earlier in the day they chose not to, sending the mediation into a tailspin.
  9. Lack of motivation.  A party prefers to maintain the status quo and strongly resists settlement.  Sometimes this occurs where leverage is solely on one side of the table, or where one party has “everything to gain” and “nothing to lose” by keeping financial and emotional circumstances the way they are for as long as possible.
  10. Polarity or a desire for vengeance.  Rarely do couples in divorce mediation get to divorce at the same time for the same reasons.  One party may feel a need for the other party to “pay dearly,” whether or not this serves their best interests.  When vengeance is a prime motivator, the ability to be fair and reasonable is dramatically compromised.
  11. Inflexibility.  Regardless of the truth, one party sees the facts in a completely different way than the other.  If one party’s parents funded the purchase of the marital home, they may insist that they are entitled to 100% of that asset with no consideration paid to the facts, the law, or equitable division guidelines.  Parties’ perceptions become their reality and, frequently, no matter what the facts are they refuse to alter their position.
  12. History of high-conflict.  Relationships that have been controlled by antagonism,   intimidation, emotional abuse, or domestic violence, can make mediation the wrong       choice.  While mediators are trained to effectively address power imbalances, when one party’s emotional or cognitive competencies are significantly impaired due to past abuse,  a suitable and durable outcome is unlikely.

For mediation to work, it takes a desire for a timely, cost-effective resolution that will keep the dispute out of court.  Key motivators are a willingness to cooperate and to focus on a fair result for both sides.   For couples who will play by those rules, and who want what’s best for the children and the future of the re-defined family, mediation can be the right way to navigate the pitfalls and possibilities of divorce resolution.

Options for Amicable Divorces – Seminar in Atlanta

Whether you like it or not, divorce is in your future.  So far, you and your soon-to-be-ex have been working things out pretty well, all things considered.  Maybe one of you has met with an attorney.  Maybe one of you has met with a CPA.  Maybe neither of you has met with any professional.  But, you are committed…at least for now…to working things out amicably.

Can it be done?  An “amicable divorce”?

The answer is:  Maybe.   To find out whether your divorce will fall on the “contested” or “uncontested” side of the fence, come to this information-packed seminar to learn about options, resources, and what kinds of professionals can help you  make informed decisions that may best lead you to an amicable divorce.

Seminar is $20 per individual and $30 for a couple.  Register by calling 404-720-0599.   The seminar will be held from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 and again on Thursday, October 25, 2012 at The Fryer Law Building (intersection of Lenox Road and Buford Highway), 70 Lenox Pointe, NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30324.  For more information or other questions, feel free to email at contact@onemediation.com .

Can there be a “Mediation Friendly” Attorney?

A recent article interviewed a family lawyer in California.  In the article, the attorney addressed poorly thought-out settlement agreements, an issue in every state.   He also described a certain brand of family law attorney:  a “mediation-friendly” attorney.

What is a mediation-friendly attorney?  Many Georgia attorneys’ websites proclaim their practice as cooperative or collaborative (though they are not certified in “Collaborative Law”).   While there probably is no perfect definition of this term, the sentiment appears to be that there are attorneys who are more willing than other attorneys to advise clients to be open to resolving family law disputes through mediation, negotiation, etc.

Is advising a client to be open to a negotiated settlement a breach of an attorney’s ethical duty to be a zealous advocate?   If so, when does that occur (and does it make the attorney “mediation friendly”)?   Comment here.

Is Divorce Mediation for You?

Mediation is a process.  It is a journey.  It is not a journey that is for everyone…until they are ready.

A recent blog hits on three “red flags” that divorce mediation may not be a process that is right for you.   Sometimes mediation is a process that is right for couples once the individuals “are ripe” for resolution.   What does that mean?   Parties that succeed in mediation often have these characteristics, among others:

  • A desire to get out of the current state of affairs and move forward to something that is more certain.
  • A firm awareness that reconciling the marriage will not occur.
  • A strong interest in having some control over the outcome rather than awaiting a trial court’s decision, which may not be favorable or that does not best fit your family’s needs, culture, etc.
  • A sufficient measure of confidence in what the legal landscape of divorce entails for their particular case.
  • Strong preparation in budgeting, inventorying assets and debts, and making decisions about the children that are for the children (vs. the wants, needs, desires of the parent).
  • A willingness to accept change.

In the context of divorce, not every party in the marriage attains these qualities at the same time (or ever).  However, when both parties reach a critical point of acceptance, mediation indeed may be a process that serves them well.

What Goes On At Divorce Mediations? Sample Agenda Here.

Mediation is a confidential process.  This confidentiality can make mediation seem mysterious, inaccessible, and even scary when it involves divorce.  Save family lawyers and divorce mediators, most individuals facing divorce are uncertain about the divorce process that occurs in open court.

The unknown is often feared.  Thus, the secrecy of mediation, generally viewed as a positive attribute, can be its own worst enemy particularly in the divorce context.   Dispelling some of the mystery, a sample agenda for a divorce mediation can be accessed here.

To learn more about divorce mediation, there are mediation coaches and frequent seminars offered by One Mediation.  Call 404-720-0599 to register for upcoming seminars or to schedule an appointment with a mediation coach.

Minimizing Legal Costs? An Expert’s Tips

This article gives fourteen tips from an experienced divorce attorney on simple things that clients can do to minimize legal expenses in divorce.  Simple.  Practical.

Divorce & Finances: How Do You Make This Work?

The costs of the divorce process can be as daunting as accounting for all of the financial matters, debts included, and month-to-month cash flow issues.  The bottom line is that being informed, prepared, and organized are critical.

As for getting organized and prepared, there are fantastic resources offered by the Institute of Certified Divorce Financial Analysts.

Another comprehensive resource, even though it is not based in the U.S., can be found here.

In addition to good legal counsel, look also for local divorce seminars and “divorce coaches” who can provide advice to you on therapists, children’s issues,  and financial professionals.  Getting good advice from professionals is priceless.

Attorney Too Smart for Her Own Good in Her Own Divorce?

Electronically stored information is a hot button issue in litigation.  It may be even hotter in divorce matters where evidence of infidelity often is found in emails, text messages, voice mail messages and more.  Obtaining these various forms of information is tricky business because of a variety of state and federal laws that govern unauthorized access to them.

A case in point came down in Tennessee in July 2012 where the wife, who also was an attorney, had installed certain “spyware” on multiple computers that her husband used.  When she found evidence of his infidelity, the gloves came off in the divorce proceedings where infidelity would make a significant difference to her share of the marital assets under a pre-nuptial agreement.  The bottom line:  the court was not impressed with her actions.

The old saying “Know Before You Go” is applicable in the world of electronics.  Know what is and is not legal when accessing electronically stored information by speaking with an experienced attorney.  And recognize the value of such information being disclosed in a divorce mediation prior to protracted litigation that ends up being the subject of multiple blogs.