How to "Win" at Mediation

Many family law judges require divorcees to go through mediation before continuing their divorce in court. One thought crosses the mind of most spouses entering the mediation process: "how to I obtain an equitable outcome in my divorce?"

Today, we're giving out our best tips for navigating the mediation process with confidence, so you don't regret the terms of your divorce.

Understand the Role of Mediation in the Divorce Process

It might sound obvious, but a lot of divorcees don't really think about why they're going through mediation. For many spouses, it's a court-required activity they didn't intend to participate in. Others may simply choose mediation because they hear it's "better than an in-court divorce," but may not understand why attorneys and judges typically prefer mediation instead of a contested divorce that happens in the courtroom.

Courts often recommend mediation as a preventative measure to avoid issuing a court-ordered divorce decree. If neither party can agree on how to resolve the divorce, the judge presiding over the case will draft a divorce decree that lays out terms for the divorce that the court deems equitable. Both judges and attorneys often view a court-ordered decree as a worst-case scenario, since it stops the divorcees from having any say in the final outcome of their divorce. Because the terms of a divorce can impact divorcees for the rest of their lives, that's not necessarily a good thing. It's essentially a high-risk, low-reward gamble that often leaves all parties feeling frustrated and bitter.

Mediation gives you and your soon-to-be-ex a chance to negotiate terms for your divorce that are legitimately equitable and mutually beneficial. It may be your best shot at resolving the divorce amicably and using it as a springboard into a happier, healthier life post-divorce. Given the alternative, it's important that you try and make the most of your mediation.

That said, let's cover how you can "win" at your mediation.

Mediation 101: Winning is Relative

We know, we said we would cover how to "win" at mediation—but in the scope of divorce negotiation, winning is relative.

Unless you and your ex are completely amicable and agree on every aspect of the divorce (which is highly unlikely, even if you are on good terms), you probably won't get everything you want out of your divorce.

Instead, you should try and get most of what you want out of your divorce—and mediation can help you get there. You should leave mediation feeling like you reached an arrangement that's better than the alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). In other words, if you can clearly say, "this mediation resulted in a better outcome than I would obtain from battling through my divorce in court," you should view the mediation as a success.

Don't Start By Compromising

You should never start off your negotiation with a compromise. The other party will inevitably try and get you to come down on your original offer, which will just leave you with a compromised compromise (and probably feeling very unhappy about it).

Instead, always start off with an ideal offer—your pie-in-the-sky, best-case scenario. If the other party agrees, congratulations, you've got a victory on your hands. If they ask you to compromise, you can do so without feeling like you "lost" the negotiation.

Understand Why Your Partner Wants what They Want

Most people make decisions in their divorce based on emotion as much as logic. If you and your ex value different things, you can use that to your advantage to create a "best of both worlds" arrangement where both parties get the things that matter to them the most.

Take some time and inventory all of your assets and liabilities. Then, think about which ones you ex would want the most, and which you would want. If you can start off negotiations by saying "I think you should have ____, because I know how much it means to you," you're setting up a great opportunity to ask for something you value in return.

Negotiating in a way that makes it clear to your spouse that you also have their best interests in mind lays the best foundation for meaningful compromises and a healthy post-divorce relationship.

Putting the information in this article to use can help you obtain the best possible outcome from your mediation.

At Family Law San Diego, we help clients get the most from their mediation cases. To schedule a consultation with our firm, contact us online or via phone at (619) 577-4900.