Preparing for Divorce Mediation

Some people think that divorce mediation is easy.  You show up, you ask for what you want, and if it doesn’t work out just go to court.  That’s certainly one way of looking at it.  If the financial and emotional cost of divorce wasn’t so high, that might even be an acceptable way to look at it.

Another way to approach mediation it is to compare it to special events with in-laws, like a wedding.  Sometimes, when you’re getting a large group of people together, your spouse may not know everyone they will meet.  If you’re smart and want to maintain a successful marriage, you will prep your spouse about the quirks your particular family members might have.  You will suggest to your spouse what they should and should not say, and you will suggest what topics to avoid.  At the end of the day, hopefully, you’ve had a successful and peaceful family interaction.

Divorce mediation should be approached in the same way.  You should talk to your attorney beforehand about the range of options you have in trying to settle your case.  You should figure out how much talking you will do vs. how much talking your attorney will do.  You should ask who made the last proposal and how reasonable it is.  Just as important: ask your attorney how much you will pay to go to court. If you’re not sure what to expect, you should ask your attorney to give you a run-down prior to the mediation.  Failure to have this conversation in advance may lead to even more conflict coming out of a mediation.

Another way to be prepared is by gathering all your documents, even if they haven’t been requested.  In the worst case scenario, you have spent a little time putting together your financial and evidentiary picture for nothing.  If you fail to do this, however, the worst case scenario may mean you cannot resolve the case due to lack of preparedness and information exchange.

Finally, and simply: Figure out how far you’re willing to compromise to get this done. You don’t need to “give up the farm”, but knowing your line in the sand before the mediation will help you make good decisions and conclude the process early if your expectations don’t match up with the other side.

I have mediated hundreds of cases and represented thousands of clients in the context of mediation. The common theme is that spouses are surprised how far off they are from a resolution at the beginning of the mediation. The other common thread is the vast majority of cases that are mediated end up in a resolution.  The best way to anticipate what may happen is to meet with your attorney and pretend as if you’re in your spouse’s shoes. Determine everything they may propose and try to think about why. Use the time with your attorney to figure out how you will respond, before the actual mediation date. You will save yourself thousands of dollars and hours of heartburn.

Are you prepared?  If not, is your attorney willing to have the conversation?  It’s probably a good time to find out. 

Author's Bio: Ketan Soni is a North Carolina Family Financial Mediator that has exclusively practiced family law for the past 15 years.  He graduated from University of Illinois in 1996 and Wake Forest University School of Law in 2000.  Ketan is the former chair of the Mecklenburg County Family Law Section and former council member of the Law Practice Management & Technology Section of the North Carolina Bar Association.  As a hobby, Ketan dabbles with creating forms in Excel, checking Facebook, tweeting on Twitter, and connecting on LinkedIn while still successfully avoiding Candy Crush.  Ketan talks like a Yankee and acts like a Yankee, but he was born in Charlotte and forcibly removed to Chicago as a kid.   Ketan finally broke free of his Midwest upbringing to return home to North Carolina in 1997.  15 years as a divorce lawyer hasn't jaded Ketan, as he recently married without even signing a prenup.  Ketan previously managed Rosen Law Firm before teaming up with Hull & Chandler to build a mediation practice. More info can be found here: