When it comes to divorce, one of the easiest ways to save time, money, and stress, is to avoid litigation, and instead, resolve your issues through mediation. This is a great strategy for everyone involved, and couples who manage it have the added benefit of retaining greater control over their final outcome.
To help you get the most out of your mediation experience, the team at Neal Ashmore offers these solutions to the eight most common mediation pitfalls.
Pitfall #1: Bad Timing
One of the fastest ways to kill of a good round of mediation, is to misjudge the timing.
If this surprises you, we invite you to ponder what happens when the drummer in your favorite band starts off a riff a full measure early. Or when that perfect, end zone pass arrives a hair too late for the receiver’s outstretched arms.
While mediation timing isn’t quite as precise as these two scenarios, it still plays a pretty important role in helping negotiations be successful.
Solution: Neither side can fully appreciate (or possibly even recognize) the value of a good settlement, without having time to process the facts. Ergo, wait until you’re fully prepared, but not so long that you negate the benefits of saved time, expense, and stress. A good attorney can help you find this magical balance.
Pitfall #2: Forgoing an Attorney
Listen, we’d be worried if you didn’t balk at the price tag of a good attorney. Hourly rates don’t run cheap, and it’s natural to assume that this would be an obvious place to save money.
However, divorce law is complicated and nuanced. Without someone in your court, there’s a high danger of you stumbling into an expensive (and possibly irreversible) mistake, or having your interests be unnecessarily sacrificed on the altar of resolution.
Solution: Hire an attorney. It’ll be worth every cent.
Pitfall #3: Picking a Bad Mediator
In theory, a neutral party is a neutral party. In practice, anyone can complete the training and become a licensed mediator. Ergo, if you aren’t careful, it’s possible to end up with a negotiator who either doesn’t know the law, or is just bad at conflict resolution.
Solution: Take referrals from your attorney, and don’t necessarily agree to the first person you meet. Look for someone who is good at communicating, and can explain complex issues while staying neutral. Availability is also important, because it doesn’t matter how good they are, if you can’t get ahold of them.
Pitfall #4: Lack of Preparation
Not preparing for mediation is like when half of your science project group shows up to presentation day without their two thirds of the poster board.
Mediation preparation is more than just a thorough understanding of the facts. It’s also having the proper paperwork on hand, including financial documents, account information, and parenting plans, and trying to negotiate a settlement in lieu of these items, is a colossal waste of everyone’s time.
Solution: Follow up with your attorney to make sure you are thoroughly prepared. If they’re on top of it, they’ll have already called the other side to make sure your spouse has done the same.
Pitfall #5: Unwilling to Compromise
Another aspect of being prepared, is bracing yourself for the inevitability of compromise. Which you will do, and a lot of, because Texas is a community property state. This means that every dollar earned from the time you said “I do,” belongs to both of you equally. So—by law—you already know you aren’t walking away with everything.
Solution: Make a list of what you are and aren’t comfortable parting with, and walk in to negotiations emotionally prepared to sever ties with those things that aren’t as important.
Pitfall #6: Compromising Too Much
On the other hand, compromising too much can also be a pitfall. This is an issue that often arises for clients operating on a tight budget, who agree to things they shouldn’t, in order to save themselves the cost of a few more hours of mediation.
However, giving up essential rights in exchange for a few bucks is never a good idea, especially if your attorney advises against it. These decisions are expensive and sometimes impossible to reverse, and you don’t want to end up in an even costlier legal battle down the road, if you end up regretting your decision.
Solution: See Pitfall #2. Hire a good attorney, and listen to their advice. Mediation might take more than one session, but it’s something worth doing, then do it right the first time.
Pitfall # 7: Failure to Disclose
Short of a prenup that says otherwise, all assets acquired after marriage belong to both spouses equally, and courts don’t look kindly on those who intentionally subvert this edict, no matter which state you’re in.
Just take an example out of California, where one woman tried to hide a 1.3-million-dollar lottery ticket from divorce court. Once the judge found out, she was ordered to relinquish—not just half—but the whole 1.3 million over to her ex as punishment. (Talk about ouch.)
Solution: Don’t be a dummy. Make an accurate accounting of all assets and property right from the start. Because let’s be real: six hundred and fifty thousand sure beats the heck out of zero.
Pitfall #8: A Bad Attitude
Finally, if we can stress anything about mediation, it’s that a good attitude is crucial to success.
It’s tough to negotiate with someone you want to light on fire. (We get it, we’re human too.) But cheap shots and jabs won’t get you anywhere in mediation. Indeed, it’s counterproductive to the whole affair, because nobody wants to play nice with an angry Rottweiler.
Solution: Bite your tongue, treat everyone with respect, and don’t into negotiations assuming failure is eminent. Only about 5% of divorces end up in litigation, so with the right perspective, you have a good shot at making it work.
Mediation Attorneys in Texas
In almost every instance imaginable, the benefits of mediation far outweigh any other inconvenience you might be facing, so even if you aren’t on the best terms with your spouse, it’s definitely worth it to try.
If you have more questions about how to make mediation work for your divorce, Neal Ashmore wants to hear from you. Call us today at (972) 436-8000, or schedule a consultation online, and let us help you begin the next phase of your life with the least amount of stress as possible.