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Is divorce mediation right for you?

Mediation is increasingly being seen as a way to avoid the expense of litigation, minimize hostilities between ex-spouses for their joint benefit and create a mutually acceptable divorce agreement.

But is it the right thing for you? The answer to that question really depends on several things that you and your spouse have to answer together.

-- Can you agree to mediate?

The mediator is there as a neutral third-party to help you and your spouse identify any unsettled issues and help you work through them. He or she sets the ground rules for any discussion, keeps things focused on the issues to be decided and can propose alternative solutions when you and your spouse can't see a way out of a sticking point.

However, mediation is going to fail if either one of you is determined to get revenge on the other party for any wrongs or simply refuses to negotiate fairly.

If you're willing to go to mediation but your spouse isn't, it might be helpful to point out that an average mediation costs between $2,500-$5,000 for the mediator's services. A typical divorce can cost up to 10 times that amount. Money wasted on fighting over issues in the divorce equals assets that are lost and unable to be divided.

-- Can you identify your goals?

The mediator can try to help you and your spouse each achieve something as close to your goals as possible, but you have to be the one who identifies what those goals actually are.

For example, you need to decide what you absolutely must have and what you can live without. Is the house that important to you, or are you willing to take your share of the equity if your spouse can find a way to buy you out?

Similarly, you may have to consider what range of possibilities is acceptable instead of thinking in absolutes. For example, you may want shared parenting that gives you exactly 50 percent of the time with your child—but that might not be practical or in your child's best interests. In that case, you need to understand not only what you'd like to see happen but the minimum you'll accept without an outright fight.

For many couples, mediation can help them collaborate in their divorce in a way that they couldn't in their marriage—ultimately saving them additional heartbreak and trauma.

Source: FindLaw, "Divorce Mediation - Overview," accessed March 03, 2017

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