You may have heard horror stories about litigated divorces or maybe witnessed them in your own family. In a divorce, the courtroom can quickly become a war zone, and a process that may otherwise have ended positively becomes a bitter affair.
Although this is not the way every litigated divorce ends, it happens often enough that more and more couples are opting for mediation as a more peaceful and civil way to dissolve their marriages. If you and your spouse are planning to use the mediation option to end your marriage, you will want to be careful to avoid any behaviors that may derail the process.
Keep things positive
Mediation allows you and your ex to negotiate the terms of your divorce with the guidance of a neutral third party. The mediator will not make decisions for you but will instead guide you in ways to break through roadblocks to reach mutually agreeable compromises. You have much more control over the process and the outcome than you would during litigation. However, you will want to be careful not to sabotage the mediation by doing the following:
- Approaching the process with the attitude that you must win on every issue
- Stirring emotions by unnecessarily bringing up painful issues, trying to make your ex angry or arguing for no reason
- Using the children as a bargaining chip to get what you want out of the negotiations
- Falsely accusing your spouse of wrongdoing, such as infidelity, addiction or abuse
- Giving more weight than necessary to issues that may be hurtful to your spouse just to be spiteful
- Refusing to participate in discussions or negotiations, or sitting silently and making your lawyer do the talking
- Arriving without the necessary documents or without having considered your goals and expectations for the mediation
- Being less than honest when disclosing assets
These and other behaviors can easily bring negotiations to an end and send your divorce right to the courtroom. Once your divorce goes to litigation, you may find that you have far less control over the outcome since the judge must rule based on Virginia law, which may not coincide with your expectations.
Instead of using your mediation as a time to punish your ex or seek revenge, you would be wise to seek the advice of an attorney with experience in alternative dispute resolution. Your advocate can guide you in deciding if mediation is truly right for your situation and help you prepare for using the process effectively to meet your goals for a more peaceful divorce.