Divorce is always a difficult task to undergo. Both parties are realizing that the marriage is over and they are trying to come to grips with this new reality. Even when couples are as civil with each other as possible, the process is still hard. But when couples aren’t so civil, well…it’s not pretty. This is where divorce mediation can help. Having a third party (usually a divorce lawyer) enter the discussion and assist both parties in expressing their desires helps the entire process flow more smoothly. When experiencing this process, couples will experience several phases of divorce mediation.

Phase 1: Beginning Phase

In the beginning phase, the mediator will lay the groundwork for how the mediation will work. This includes gathering information from both spouses to gain a background about the entire situation from which he or she can work. The beginning phase will also determine how the rest of the process will go. This is mostly based on how well couples communicate. The mediator will evaluate communication between spouses and determine a method that will provide the best possible outcome. Through this process, everyone involved will be able to create a plan for the rest of the mediation.

Phase 2: Gathering Information Phase

The second of the phases of divorce mediation is the gathering information phase. In this phase, the mediator will gather information about both spouses. This is so that the mediator can be as informed as possible when dealing with a case. This phase is an essential part of the process because any information that the mediator gets can help to complete the process with little hassle. In order to obtain information, the mediator will ask couples to bring in various documents. These could be anything from tax returns to insurance statements. The mediator will need these documents to summarize the process and work out a settlement.

The mediator can also help couples to gather any information that they might not be able to get a hold of. For instance, if a couple is having a hard time finding a specific insurance policy, then the mediator can be look for it themselves. They will also go over the legal rules and actions of the divorce with the couple. These would include what various state laws say about division of assets, child custody, insurance claims, etc.

Phase 3: Framing Phase

In the framing phase, the mediator will work with couples to set goals. These goals will help each spouse realize what they want to gain from the divorce. Going into a divorce without a plan is never a good idea. But framing the divorce allows both parties to figure out what they want from the process. Some couples might come in already knowing exactly what they want, and that’s great. But for couples who are not sure, framing is a necessary step.

Framing deals with issues such as property and financial division, child custody, and alimony. All of these issues need to have the perspectives of both spouses. In most situations, the spouses’ perspectives will overlap with each other. Both parties will want their property to be divided fairly. Both parties will definitely want the best arrangement possible for their children. By working with the mediator to frame the process, they will have a better chance at achieving their desires.

Phase 4: Negotiation Phase

After the mediator has gained information, and worked with the parties to decide on the goals, they now have to negotiate a settlement. The mediator will assist the couple in covering all of their goals and will make sure that nothing is left out of the settlement.The couple will then work with the mediator to determine potential outcomes. Through discussing the possible outcomes, the couple is able to work with the mediator to decide which options will make both parties happy.

After discussing the outcomes, the process will shift to help the couple to narrow down their focuses and determine which option is best for everyone. This may sound easy, and sometimes it can be. But there could also be some challenges. It is important to remember that this step will require compromise on both sides. Problem-solving is a major aspect of this phase. Both spouses need to be willing to work with the mediator and solve any problems that might arise. Otherwise, the divorce can quickly dissolve into fits of anger, making the process more stressful for everyone.

Phase 5: Finishing Phase

The last of the phases of divorce mediation is the finishing phase. In the finishing phase, the settlement is completed and is sent to both spouses for their approval. The spouses will look over the agreement with their mediator and, if both are satisfied, will then sign off. If needed, the mediator can write up a memorandum that both spouses can sign before leaving their session. Memorandums are typically used if the issues in the case are considered simple. This document functions as an “agreement” until a formal settlement agreement can be drawn up. Most times the memorandum will be the base for how the formal agreement is built.

Divorce is always a difficult time. But with divorce mediation, the process does not have to be so difficult. If you or someone you know is looking for mediation, feel free to contact Christine Howard. Christine would love to talk with you and answer any questions you may have about the process. She can also act as or recommend a mediator to you for your divorce. To get in touch, contact Christine Howard by phone at (864) 282-8575 or email at lnorris@christinehoward.com.

Adapted fromĀ The Stages of Divorce Mediation by Emily Doskow, Attorney.