What Not to Do in Divorce Mediation: Advice From Lawyers

Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC. – Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers

16 Things Not to Do During Divorce Mediation

Are you divorcing and considering trying divorce mediation? This informative article by the divorce mediation lawyers at SFS Attorneys gives you the top sixteen behaviors to avoid during mediation to get the best result for your family.

If you live in the Philadelphia area and want to engage in a divorce mediation process, call us. We have over forty years helping families get through divorce and come out the other side with the child custody, child support, and property distribution arrangements that suit them best. We can help you too.

1. Fail to Adequately Prepare

You and your spouse must collect all information and documents regarding your incomes, the value of your assets such as jewelry, cars, or your home, your living expenses including those of your children, and your joint debt. This information is the starting point for negotiation, because the mediator cannot entertain your positions and facilitate a discussion between you unless and until they know what you need to discuss..

For most, obtaining a value for their joint possessions is not difficult. One can go to the Kelley Blue Book or NADA websites to find the value of their cars, and it is common for couples seeking to divorce to ask a local realtor what the value of their home is. However, if you have collectibles, art, antiques, own a business, or have family money you brought to the marriage, you may want to consult with a high asset attorney. At Schwartz, Fox and Saltzman, we have considerable experience with cases of this type.

2. Go Into Mediation to “Win” It

Mediation is not a contest to see who can beat the other. Granted, you may feel hurt, angry, or resentful due to the cause or causes of your divorce, but mediation is not the venue to get revenge. Mediation is a way for you and your spouse to resolve your custody and support arrangements and distribute your joint property.

If you can remain as emotionally detached as possible during mediation, you will get the best result. Think of a mediation session as a business meeting in which you interact with colleagues at work and collaborate on an outcome. 

3. Keep Everything Secret from Your Spouse

In order to negotiate a successful outcome, you each must disclose all financial aspects of the household to the divorce mediation attorney during mediation. 

4. Hide Assets

Hiding or wasting joint assets only causes your spouse to get angry and be less inclined to negotiate. If your spouse suspects you are hiding or wasting assets, they will likely take the issue to court, where you both will spend a great deal more time and money litigating over property and support issues. Successful mediation is about trust.

5. Insult Your Spouse

Again, you get the best result if you think of mediation sessions as business meetings during which you discuss a project with your colleagues to reach a mutually acceptable result. 

You may be dwelling on the issues that caused your break up, but you must keep that to yourself. Mediation is not the venue to bring up those issues or insult your spouse. You entered into mediation to collaborate on crafting the best solutions for your family. Make that your priority.

6. Deliberately Strive to Anger Your Spouse

If you are feeling angry about your divorce, you may be tempted to push their buttons in retaliation. Resist that urge.  Creating anger in your spouse  is not conducive to negotiations. We often suggest to our clients that being in therapy during the mediation process can be helpful.

7. Seek to Punish Your Spouse

You may want to punish your spouse for their role in causing the divorce or for asking for the divorce, and again, negotiation during mediation is not the time and place for that. It will be obvious to both your spouse and the mediator if you take an unreasonable position with regard to custody arrangements, support, or property distribution, so don’t indulge in that behavior – if you do you will surely impact negotiations. 

For example, if you own an antique car your spouse restored, demanding that car in negotiations about property distribution would be unwise as it serves no purpose other than to create bad feelings with your spouse. Similarly, do not offer a ridiculously low amount in support or suggest a child custody schedule you know your spouse would summarily reject. 

8. Use Your Children as Leverage

Each of you has an equal right to parent your children, barring some issue such as physical abuse or substance addition.In many cases, parents enjoy shared, or equal, custody. –

If it appears you will be the parent of primary custody, you must work with your co-parent to craft a custody arrangement which honors their parental rights and the rights of the children to have a relationship with both parents. Do not use an unfeasible custody schedule as leverage for an increase in support or greater property distribution.  

9. Enter Mediation Unwilling to Participate

The point of mediation is to take charge and amicably discuss and resolve the issues arising from your divorce. Agreeing on a resolution to those issues not only empowers you both, but saves you the time, money, and aggravation you would spend on divorce litigation.

Be ready to compromise. The solutions you come up with together with the help of your mediator may be superior to the solutions you thought up yourself.

10. Rush the Process

It may take several sessions to resolve the issues arising from your divorce, especially if you have children or a complicated estate. Be patient with the negotiation process.

11. Unwilling to Settle Your Divorce

If you are unwilling to resolve your divorce, mediation may not be right for you. If a mediator suspects one of you does not want to divorce, they may recommend couples or individual counseling prior to mediation.

12. Attempt to Persuade Your Spouse

Limit conversations with your spouse to those you must have because you must consult about finances, or you must consult about parenting your children. You may choose to use a neutral third party professional to act as a buffer between you, such as a therapist or divorce coach,  when you discuss the issues arising from the divorce. 

13. Focus on Monetary Amounts Over Everything Else

There is more at stake in a divorce than money, such as the well-being of your children going forward, your relationship with them once the divorce is final, and your lifestyle after divorce.  

What issues do you need to resolve other than support? Your mediator may ask you to discuss those first and money last, as money is often a difficult topic. 

14. Begin Monetary Discussions Too High or Too Low

The amount of support one spouse pays to another depends upon the support obligor’s income, the support obligee’s income, and the number of children. If you do not have an idea of what amount of support is fair under the circumstances, ask your mediator. They know the norms in your jurisdiction and can provide you with a range of the amount of support that would be appropriate.

15. Argue Over Values

If you and your spouse have very different ideas of what your joint property is worth, your mediator might suggest you agree to hire a third party to value  that property and to abide by their valuation . 

16. Forget Mediation is Meant to Be Less Antagonistic

Emotions run high in most divorces. Remember, the point of mediation is to collaborate on solutions appropriate for your family. Resist the temptation to rehash old arguments.

Why Choose Divorce Mediation Over Litigation

Many couples in the Philadelphia area choose mediation over litigation because:

  • It allows them to take charge of their future rather than having a judge decide;
  • It gives them negotiation skills to use in the future;
  • It makes the divorce process much less messy, if the parties engage in it in good faith;
  • It saves money in lawyers fees and court costs; 
  • It saves time if all issues can be negotiated and resolved; and
  • It saves time if certain issues cannot be negotiated and need to be litigated

Finding a Divorce Mediator

In your first meeting with a divorce mediation lawyer, be sure to ask yourself:

  • Am I confident in this mediator’s skill and experience?
  • Am I comfortable discussing deeply personal issues with the mediator?

If the answer is yes for both of you, you have found the person who can help you get through your divorce with less rancor and more control over your lives after divorce.
If you live in the Philadelphia area and are considering entering into a mediated divorce, call the experienced divorce mediation attorneys at Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman. We are ready to help your family get through this.

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