Be a Maverick in your Divorce Mediation
On the surface, mediation is a forum wherein two people in disagreement meet with a professional conversation referee (aka: mediator) with the goal to reach a resolution that more or less works for both of them. Or as we like to say in mediation, “a solution they can both live with.”
However, mediation is not for the faint of heart. In divorce mediation your worst fears and biggest worries collide with your spouse’s at every corner of the negotiation. You both get to the meeting unaware of what the other will ask for, how you will respond to it, and how on earth you will ever get to an agreeable solution. You’re stressed and overwhelmed- yet you are required to think clearly and intellectually, because after all, you are making decisions that will affect you the rest of our life.
That’s all bad news, right?
The good news is that your mediation does not have to be chaotic and unpredictable. You can control how you experience your mediation. Yes, you alone. That’s what my client (I’ll call her Monique) did. More on Monique later.
It all starts with the right preparation which ensures that both your brain (logic) and heart (emotions) are at bay during the mediation. The bulk of the work happens days before the mediation date. If done thoroughly, this strategy allows you to be fully present during your mediation, own your chair, speak your mind, and negotiate your way to a settlement with poise and ease . Here are the steps:
Know your numbers and words.
Once complete financial disclosure is achieved (i.e., you both exchange your detailed financial statements), study the numbers well. Take time to understand the landscape of your family assets and liabilities. Think of all the pieces (the house, investments, debt, etc.), And ask yourself this question: If I had a magic wand, what would I grant myself from what we own and why? p.s., it cannot be all, but nice try.
What kind of parenting arrangement do you want? Is it shared, joint, sole? Know the difference. What other things matter to you? Section 7 expenses for the kids, right of first refusal, exclusive possession of the home, or freedom to travel with the kids?
Prepare your spirit for the experience.
I love Oprah’s quote, “We are spiritual beings having a human experience. Not the other way around.” The way to prepare your spirit to be a strong, confident, capable negotiator is to tell her that she is.
I often talk about these things during my clients’ pre-mediation coaching sessions, as I did with Monique. Monique had a narcist husband and had serious doubts that her husband will agree to anything. She kept moving in her seat, adjusting her hair, and asking what she can do when he demands things that she doesn’t want. I said to her, “just say no, and counteroffer with something more aligned with what you want. You don’t have control over what he says or does, but you can control how you react”. I remember Monique lifting up her face in that moment, as if she was just granted a pair of wings. She doesn’t have to do what her husband wants any more.
You shouldn’t just tell your soul that she is powerful, you have to show her that she can be it through visualization. I told Monique to spend a few minutes every night visualizing herself entering bravely into the mediation room, sitting confidently in the big chair, easily and gracefully expressing her thoughts and opinions, and getting to the end with a successful settlement where everybody is signing the agreement with a smile on their face.
On the mediation date, Monique’s energy was noticeably different. She had a list of the numbers and words that are important to her. When her husband presented his offer, she had a counteroffer ready, and when they both agreed on a number, she felt confident enough to try to push it up one more time and got a yes from him!
The mediation was successful. As she was leaving my office, Monique said to me, I thought it was going to be a lot more difficult than this. I smiled and said, “you put in the pre-work and it made all the difference.”
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The decision to separate from your partner is not an easy one. The un-coupling of your relationship comes with all sorts of uncomfortable, and bitter feelings. In addition to the emotions, you must deal with the logistics of separation, such as dividing your assets and liabilities, finding a new home, and negotiating a parenting plan if you share children.