When I completed the basic mediation training 5 years ago, I came to some very interesting conclusions.  First and foremost that I do NOT want to be a mediator!  Their job is a challenging one and as someone whose heart starts pounding with anxiety if voices begin to raise, I am quite clear that being a mediator is not where my skills are best used!  “Why did you take the training then?” you ask? A logical question!  As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, I often work closely with mediators and felt that it was important for me to fully understand the process so that I could be as supportive as possible to the professionals that I work with.  Also, I’m interested in doing more work with Collaborative Divorce and to do so typically requires the basic mediation training.   I also prefer to work as a financial neutral for both parties to a divorce and the basic mediation skills will likely come in handy. The second major conclusion was that mediation is by far, the best choice for a couple to negotiate their divorce settlement.

My own divorce was initially a do-it-yourself divorce in which numerous, large errors were made in the original paperwork and as so often happens, the cooperative attitude during the process quickly faded after the divorce was final. We have been back to court twice in litigated cases that nearly drained me of both financial and emotional resources.  I now understand that in a litigated divorce, everyone loses. It costs a fortune, takes forever, and decisions are left to a judge who doesn’t know you or your situation and really doesn’t give a darn either.  Life-changing decisions are made in a couple of hours and you may or may not get a chance to even explain your side. It’s brutal, demeaning, adversarial, and ultimately largely disappointing.

Now that I’ve become more familiar with the mediation process, it is clear to me that this should be the ONLY way that people are allowed to divorce.  It promotes understanding, outcomes that work for everyone, and removes the limitations that might otherwise be imposed by overly restrictive laws.  A mediated divorce settlement has the opportunity to be whatever works for the parties and their children for everyone’s best interests. It saves thousands of dollars in costs and preserves a working relationship that can extend post-divorce. The inherently adversarial nature of a litigated divorce often destroys any respect the parties had for each other by the time the decree is finalized.

If you’re considering divorce, make every effort possible to attempt mediation to work out the details. A mediator will help you bring in other experts like myself when necessary and often they are also legal document preparers who can complete the paperwork from start to finish. A good mediator will always recommend that you have any documents reviewed by an attorney before filing and you should absolutely take that advice! As I always say, you only have one opportunity to get it right and you can’t afford to make mistakes.  But you CAN make the process respectful and efficient and some form of alternative dispute resolution is, in my opinion, and experience, the only way to go!

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5 Things to Do Before You Decide on Divorce by Nancy Hetrick

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