How Do I Get What I Want in Divorce Mediation?
In divorce mediation, the first rule to getting what you want is to understand that no one gets everything they want. Once you acknowledge that, you can more readily implement strategies that can help you get most of what you want. You probably already understand basic principles of negotiation from work or private life that allow you to be successful in mediation. However, you also have to be conscious of the pitfalls of negotiating when you are too emotionally invested in unresolved personal issues or the final outcome. So, here are some tips for making the mediation process work for you:
- Come prepared — Preparation is vitally important to any negotiation. You have to know your goal for each item of the agenda, the least you’re willing to accept, and your walk-away point. But you can’t just come with a position on the issues. You must have substantive reasons for taking your positions. These reasons must be related to important values in your life.
- Make lists and prioritize — As part of your preparation, list your goals and order them from most important to least important. For each of these goals, make note of your concession point, which is the least you are willing to accept on that issue.
- Anticipate how your spouse will react — By now, you know your spouse very well and can predict the response to your statement of goals. Prepare yourself to hear his or her objections and have an answer prepared.
Once you are in a mediation session, it’s important to hold your emotions in check and maintain your focus on the goals you set for the process. To accomplish this, you must:
- Be patient with the process. Progress is rarely a straight-line trajectory.
- Stick to the plan. You came in with a set of goals; don’t let the discussion shake your resolve.
- Don’t fall into the personality trap. As stated earlier, you know your spouse well, and there’s always a temptation to respond to an impasse with a personal jab. Don’t initiate and don’t escalate. It’s never helpful to get dragged into a relationship squabble when you should be focusing on your future.
- Avoid kneejerk responses. Whether you’re voicing an objection or making a concession, a rapid response without proper reflection is generally counter-productive.
- Don’t be a rock. Sitting at the table and simply saying no to everything doesn’t move discussions forward. Help your spouse understand the reasons for your no, and what you might be willing to say yes to.
There’s no getting around the fact that mediation is work. But when you arrive prepared and stay disciplined, that work can pay off with favorable results.