We can’t count how many times a couple has come into my office for an initial consultation and stated “this is our first time, and we don’t know where to start.” Let’s be honest. Divorce is not something that anyone wants to do once, let alone more than once. With sky rocketing divorce rates all over the country, you are one of the lucky few who can say you have never been through a divorce proceeding. And, we wrote this blog for you – the person going into the divorce mediation process for the first time. If you are reading this, you are probably experiencing the spectrum of emotions from fear to uncertainty and everything in between. My hope is that these tips will ease the stress associated with your divorce and better prepare you for a successful divorce mediation.
1 – Open Communication is Key:
One of the keys to a successful divorce mediation is open communication. A lot of clients come in thinking that they can give a brief description of their finances or financial goals and that will be enough. However, a lot of times there is some more in-depth information needed. There is a philosophy in settlement called “expanding the pie.” This basically means that your divorce mediator may need to look to other factors that are important to you that are not necessarily black and white. It is very important to clearly communicate “why” something is important to you. When you do this, your mediator may be able to find solutions to your problem that are outside of the box and that you may not have thought of.
2 – Financial Disclosure is Mandatory:
A lot of people think that they can avoid the statutory (CA Family Code Section 2100) requirement of making a full financial disclosure by coming to mediation. This is just not the case. First, the law still applies because even though you are not going to court, you are still getting a divorce. Second, it is important to know exactly what the financial situation is before you can make a decision. In fact, informed decisions are at the very heart of a successful divorce mediation.
3 – Your mediator should be neutral … always:
We get questioned all the time about why one spouse cannot attend the consultation, or even meet with us alone. A true, and ethical mediator cannot meet with one spouse without the other spouse present. Bottom line – a divorce mediator’s role is that of a neutral. Information given to one spouse without the other spouse present can quickly turn into a contentious game of telephone when information is misinterpreted and then relayed to the other spouse in a manner that compromises the mediator’s neutrality. If you speak to a mediator who is willing to do this, take caution.
4 – You are not alone:
Divorce is something that affects more than 50% of the U.S. population. You are not alone. You also have tons of resources. As divorce mediators, we have an expansive network of professionals that you can lean on. Here are some examples: therapists for couples, individuals, and children; residential and commercial real estate agents; mortgage professionals; financial advisors; accountants; estate planning attorneys … the list goes on. The point here is that we are here to support you in any way we can, and if it is not in our wheel house, we know the right person to help.
5 – Think for the Future:
When emotions are running high, it is easy to make concessions in the heat of the moment or to think you need to hang on to an asset like the family home for dear life. You are probably more emotional now than you have ever been and you may not be thinking that clearly as a result. Here is our advice: if guilt, shame, fear or the like is driving you to give away the farm (so to speak), take pause. Think to yourself – if I am awarded this now, I can always choose to give it to my ex-spouse later on, but I can never get it back if I give it away in haste now. If you believe that holding on to the family home is the only thing that will make you feel safe and secure think twice. Homes are assets that come along with a lot of obligations (hidden and apparent). In six months, you will be an entirely different person from an emotional stand point.
Remember, everyone is different and every divorce has its own set of complexities that make it unique. Your divorce mediator can be a beam of support in this difficult time. If you have questions about your divorce, you can contact us to schedule a free, one-our consultation at (949) 558-2624.