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Who Should Choose A Collaborative Divorce And Who Should Choose Mediation?
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I’ll start by talking about mediation, since it’s faster and less expensive, and then I’ll talk about Collaborative Divorce. And remember, if you start in mediation but decide later to switch to Collaborative Divorce, you can do that. Or vice versa. You can start in Collaborative Divorce and switch to mediate. So making an initial choice now doesn’t prevent you from changing your mind later.
That’s one of the great things about not going to court—you stay in the driver’s seat in the process.
Who’s a good candidate for mediation?
If you’re ready to reach an agreement, reasonably sane, and you can sit in the same room with your spouse and talk about things (with the help of a mediator), then try mediation. Mediation is faster and less expensive than Collaborative Divorce, so it’s worth a shot. At Peace Talks, about 95% of our mediation clients end up with an agreement no matter how rocky the mediation or level of conflict.
Your mediator might be an attorney, a therapist, or a financial professional. It’s up to you…or even hire 2 or 3 mediators to work together. We call this “co-mediation” or “team mediation.” The different professionals have different perspectives, so combining forces can be very effective and make the process go faster and more efficiently.
Although your mediator will have expertise in his or her field, your mediator’s job is to stay neutral and not to take sides. The mediator will facilitate the negotiations, adding his or her suggestions as you go, and making sure you stay on track. The mediator’s role is to help you settle, not to give you individual advice or individual represented.
To be successful in mediation, you’ll need to be:
• Committed to staying out of court and wanting to reach an agreement
• Ready to reach an agreement (even if you have no idea how)
• Confident enough to ask questions and speak up if you don’t like how things are going (the mediator should make it easy for you to do this)
• Ready to ask for help if you need it
Some people are able to do these things during their divorce and some people aren’t. Ideally, the mediator is keeping an eye on whether the discussion is balanced and whether both of you understand what’s going on. But sometimes participants look really calm on the outside but are boiling over on the inside, and the mediator doesn’t notice. So feel free to speak up. Speaking up is an important part of the process.
Remember, it’s the mediator’s job to help you speak up, so you don’t have to feel like the responsibility is all on your shoulders—it isn’t. All you need to be able to say is, “I don’t understand what you just said,” or, “I don’t like the direction this conversation is going,” or, “I need help understanding these numbers,” or even “Can we take a break for a moment?”
It’s the mediator’s job to take it from there. And if your mediator can’t help you after you say you’re not comfortable or that you don’t understand, that’s the mediator’s fault, not yours.
Your mediation will not go perfectly. Just last week we had a very uncomfortable moment in the mediation and I said something stupid out of sheer nervousness. The wife spoke up and said, “That comment was really annoying!” Thank goodness she said something. I was feeling uncomfortable about it but wasn’t sure what to say to fix it. Her comment let me explain, “I know. It was really stupid of me to say that. I was uncomfortable in the moment and said the first thing that came out of my mouth and that was wrong. I’m sorry.”
She accepted my apology and we moved on. If she had held her comment on, the rest of the session probably would’ve been very rocky. But because she said something, and because I answered her honestly, we “fixed” the process and successfully moved on from there.
The good news is that if you try mediation and decide it’s not for you, you can always “upgrade” to a Collaborative Divorce.So there’s no reason not to try.
On the other hand, if you’re really worried about your legal rights and feel like you want an advocate to help you stand up to your spouse, then Collaborative Divorce is the option to choose. In Collaborative Divorce, you’ll have your own attorney (your spouse will have his or her own attorney to). You’ll each have a therapist-coach who will help you manage your feelings and strategies how to get through the settlement discussions without making yourself crazy. You’ll have a neutral financial expert who will help both of you figure out the numbers and make sure that everyone has the information that they need in order to make a good decision.
Stephanie Maloney Certified Financial Planner (CFPA) in the Los Angeles area and as a divorce mediator and President at Peace Talks. This article has helped you better understand the differences between divorce mediation services and Collaborative Divorce, and how each works. The good news is that these are both very flexible processes and both will keep you out of court.
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