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Mediation: Massaging the tension out of the divorce process

The ending of a marriage can be painful, and the emotions of family members involved are often off the Richter scale. But there is a way to tame the tenseness, and in addition, a way to lessen the financial burden of separation -- mediation. It may be the solution you have been looking for to provide the smoothest transition possible to single life.

Far from being further divisive, mediation can empower all individuals affected by the divorce, including children. A mediator remains neutral in the mediation process, acting as a negotiator between the separating couple on a safe, level playing field.

Mediation often trumps litigation

Family mediation can be a better way of navigating the sometimes uncharted waters of divorce. This isn't where you or your partner ever expected to be, so getting some help steering the boat is a positive action you and your soon-to-be former spouse can take for yourselves and for your children.

The family mediation process has the individuals working together toward some definitive goals:

  • To ensure the best interests of children come first
  • Ensuring each individual has an equal say
  • To scale down the emotional stress of all those involved
  • Slashing the potential expense of dispute resolution
  • Allowing both parties to come to a fair, reasonable agreement regarding contentious issues
  • Allows for more options than what may be available under a court order
  • To give both participants a better way of solving potential future problems that could arise

Family mediation should be strongly considered before you pursue any adversarial action. Litigation can sometimes be costly and stress inducing; however, the mediation process is private, informal and relaxed and is a forum for lessening tension. By working in a realm of fairness and cooperation, you and your family members are far more apt to reach positive solutions to highly volatile issues like who gets the kids at Christmas and who pays for Susie's skates and baby Johnny's jungle gym.

First eye-to-eye meeting

Upon your initial meeting, you and your spouse will talk to the mediator about what each of you expects from the outcome, which will assist the mediator in setting ground rules for communication with respect. That understanding will set the tone for the entire process. Seeking legal advice before starting the mediation process is something each individual would be wise to do.

Each of you will sit down with the mediator on your own so you can feel free to express your feelings without the other person's presence.

A mediation contract is fashioned according to the lives of those involved, so no two will be exactly alike. Here are some issues that will likely be put on the table to be ironed out, if they haven't been already:

  • Child custody, support and access, spousal support, and division of property
  • Any contract, like a prenuptial agreement, that speaks to finances while living together
  • Any areas of non-agreement regarding children
  • Business issues if you and your spouse are in business together

If you and your partner reach an agreement, the mediator will draft a Memorandum of Understanding regarding all aspects to which you have agreed. Your legal team should get a copy of the document, and your lawyer will make sure the memo conforms to all legalities according to the Family Law Act.

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