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Divorce Mediation

If you are in the divorce process - just thinking about it, separated, already filed in court - I am truly sorry this is where you now find yourself. Divorce, no matter how necessary or inevitable it may sometimes be, is a painful and emotionally draining process. Mediation - if both parties are committed to the process - can be a way to limit some of the emotional and financial stress that accompanies a divorce.

Mediation will not prevent or remove all of the inevitable stress and negative feelings that occur during a divorce (click Emotional Cost for more information). Committing yourselves to mediation can set the stage for a more peaceful and amicable process that results in an agreement that is created by the both of you. This is directly the opposite of the adversarial process (two attorneys) that usually results in an agreement that is “forced” on one or both of you.

The use of one mediator instead of two attorneys will also conserve financial resources during a divorce.  Again, as long as both of you are both committed to the mediation process, this means there will be more money available to use for your children and each of you after the divorce is final. (Please click The Financial Cost to see how quickly costs can add up).

Some basics:

  • The goal of mediation is to “help clients put together a fair, equitable agreement that works for them based on their unique circumstances;”
  • Mediators look at what is fair for both parties instead of just one;
  • Family court judges are sending more people to mediation as a means to work out divorce issues;
  • Family court judges encourage “joint legal custody” of children unless one (or both parents) could be dangerous to the children;
  • Important note: In any divorce, "fair and equitable" does not always mean "equal" with respect to assets - there are many factors to consider.  A judge will not sign off unless he/she is convinced it is fair and equitable.
  • If your mindset going into this is that you want to punish or "teach a lesson" to your soon to be ex-spouse by limiting access to the children or by getting more from the settlement because you "deserve more," then divorce mediation is not for you.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a form of conflict resolution and is designed to help divorcing spouses create a "fair and equitable" agreement regarding the shared parenting of children and disbursement of the marital estate.  It is essential that you give me a full, accurate and detailed list of the estate assets and debts.  Your ideas for the division of the estate and for the caring of the children are also very important to the process.

The rest of the mediation process is the negotiation between the two of you (with my input) about what the final agreement will be.  When all of that is resolved, I write up a formal written agreement called a “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) which you both sign to signify your agreement with it. The MOU becomes the basis for the final decree signed by the judge.

The Marital Estate includes such things as:

  • Physical assets (house, cars, other real estate, possessions, etc.);
  • Monetary assets (cash, checking/savings accounts, pensions, retirement accounts, tax filings, etc.), and;
  • Debts (outstanding mortgage, credit card balances, other loans, etc.) of the couple.

The Parenting Plan includes such things as:

  • Child support obligations of each parent;
  • Who is responsible for providing health/dental/vision insurance;
  • How major expenses will be paid for such as college education, private school financing, etc.;
  • Visitation schedules (how many weekdays/nights and weekends at each home), how holidays are divided up, vacations, etc.

Why should you use me as your mediator?

It is generally accepted that good mediators possess the following capabilities or traits:

  • Excellent listening skills;
  • Empathy;
  • Neutrality;
  • A nonjudgmental attitude;
  • The desire to achieve resolution;
  • The ability to guide processes between people.

These are also essential to provide quality therapy and I have relied on them – and continued to hone and improve them – since I began providing mental health services in 1985.  I have also been trained as a therapist to listen to all sides of a situation in order to ensure that the needs of everyone involved in a situation are addressed instead of just one person.

Although I am a mental health therapist, I have had a significant amount of training (both basic and advanced) specific to divorce mediation from a practicing divorce attorney/mediator. (You can visit Conflict Resolution Training for more information about Divorce Mediation and the training I received.)  I have also had training in Conflict Resolution as it related to community mental health through the Georgetown University National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health.

It is important for you to know that if you choose to see me for mediation services, I will NOT conduct psychotherapy with either of you.