Are you aware divorce mediation is an alternative to traditional divorce? Did you know that it takes mental preparation?

Rather than litigation that occurs in a courtroom, which can be tense for many, divorce mediation in Virginia involves discussing the terms of divorce with your spouse under the supervision of a trained, impartial mediator. Critical here is that divorce mediation is based on discussion. Still, if you and your spouse encounter roadblocks or struggle to compromise, the mediator can assist in carrying the talks toward agreement. 

While divorce mediation tends to put less stress on a separating couple than litigation typically does, it’s wise nonetheless to mentally prepare for the process. Effective cooperation is ideal in divorce mediation. The right mental preparation will put you on a path to making the process go as smoothly as possible. 

Assess Your Situation

Start by taking stock of your current situation. Who and/or what will be involved? Do you and your spouse share children? Do you share assets and/or debts? Taking an inventory of assets and property may be helpful. Additionally, draft a list of issues you wish to resolve through the process of your divorce. 

Some level of documentation will likely be needed for your divorce as well, especially in light of your goals. If you’re seeking child support or alimony, then having the relevant documentation ready will be a boon to your mental preparation. Documentation that may be relevant in divorce mediation in Virginia includes financial records, emails, letters, and other verifiable evidence that can be referenced.

Take the Right Steps

If you have children, give them an idea of what the separation between you and your spouse means and how it will affect them. Search for how they feel about the situation. At the end of the day, your children’s best interest should always be a top priority in any divorce.

Be sure to get a good night’s sleep before and during the mediation process (and after, too). The value of proper rest should never be understated. You’ll want your mental acuity and clarity to be optimal during mediation. Proper rest will assist you in better stating your case and articulating any statements. Being restful will also help you in remaining organized.

Focus on the Purpose

Divorce mediation is not an argument or a debate. Therefore, the exchange that you and your spouse will engage in is not about winning or losing. Instead, the criteria for success in mediation are based on reaching an amicable separation that ultimately results in agreement. How you arrive at that conclusion should come from a consideration of your and your spouse’s needs and where those needs best intersect.

It may be tempting to defend your interests fiercely. More tempting still may be the notion of never backing down. While these approaches to situations may be favorable in some contexts, divorce mediation means that the best route is through finding an amicable solution that works well for both parties, in some ways as a product of compromise. Reasonable compromise means setting aside your differences and working through a middle ground where you can both agree. A necessary component to forming a compromise is to understand the importance of your partner’s perspective, and that your partner’s needs have meaning.

Consider Your Partner

Divorce often means a mixture of emotions for both partners that can closely resemble the five stages of grief. Whatever the emotional state your partner may be in during mediation, being considerate of what your partner is going through means a more effective engagement of empathy, making for smoother mediation. Hear out your partner’s side of the story and consider their experience in the matter. Try to empathize with your partner. Approaching divorce mediation in this way will let you share your side in mediation thoughtfully and in a manner more conducive to agreement.

Boost Your Emotional Intelligence

For better awareness of your partner’s emotions, look to improving your emotional intelligence. Psychology Today defines emotional intelligence as, “the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.” Emotional intelligence has been increasingly identified for its importance in a range of settings in which people interact with one another. The pillars of emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, and social skills. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses in these areas and see where you can make positive changes accordingly.

As you examine the facets of your emotional intelligence, be prepared for your partner to introduce topics into mediation that may be emotionally triggering. Investigate how these may affect you and why. Reflecting and working through these feelings ahead of time may enable you to better manage them during mediation. In any event, you can let your mediator know in advance of any subjects that will be challenging to speak about. The mediator can dedicate attention to your individual concerns and may set up guidelines in mediation regarding such matters.

Speak to an Attorney

Consulting a knowledgeable attorney, even if your mediator is an attorney, will leave you with an enhanced understanding of which decisions are in your interests and which are not, as a mediator can provide you with legal information but not legal advice. Your lawyer will likely have a wealth of information for you to draw upon. Knowing that your lawyer has the background to provide you with quality information will embolden you to engage in mediation with confidence.

Lastly, having a lawyer review your mediated Marital Settlement Agreement, before signing it, is highly advisable. Be straightforward about what your objectives are from the start so that the lawyer reviewing the Marital Settlement Agreement can ensure it serves your interests.

Wrap Up

Mental preparation is a key factor in smooth divorce mediation. Let’s review the components of proper mental preparation for divorce mediation in Virginia:

  • Assess your situation by considering who’s involved and what’s at stake. 
  • Take the right steps by speaking to your children and taking care of yourself. 
  • Focus on the purpose of mediation—agreement.
  • Consider your partner through listening and empathy.
  • Boost your emotional intelligence with evaluation and reflection.
  • Speak to an attorney so you know what to expect.

Carrying out each of these steps will help you ease the stress of a potential or ongoing divorce mediation.