This article was
published in Divorce Magazine and are reproduced here with their full permission.
Mediation can help you minimize the
financial and emotional costs of divorce -- despite the hurt, anger, and lack of trust
that usually accompanies the breakdown of a marriage. Here are some of the most important
keys to creating a peaceful divorce.
By Mari Frank
"We must pursue peaceful ends
through peaceful means."
-- Martin Luther King Jr.
How is it possible to have a peaceful
divorce when there is so much hurt, anger, and lack of trust? With the heartache of ending
a marriage, how can you avoid the tremendous stress, pain, conflict escalation, and
financial devastation of a courtroom battle? The key is to find a mediator whom you both
can trust to educate you in the negotiation process, and to facilitate collaboration to
resolve the conflict and create a satisfying settlement.
Mediation Promotes Peace
"It isn't enough to talk about
peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at
-- Eleanor Roosevelt
For both of you to feel comfortable in
divorce mediation, you must have faith that the process will be fair and that your rights
will be protected. You need to trust that your mediator has the negotiation skills, legal
expertise, conflict management tools, sensitivity, and problem-solving ability to help you
reach a mutually satisfying agreement in a peaceful way.
Here's what to ask
when interviewing a mediator:
- Is the mediator an attorney with legal and mediation
training? Will he/she educate both of you as to your legal rights and responsibilities
before you begin to negotiate the issues so that you will make informed decisions?
- As a neutral third party, your attorney-mediator shouldn't
give either of you legal advice, but will he/she explore legal options with both of you?
- Will the attorney-mediator prepare all the court documents
and agreements, and give you the opportunity to review and receive advice from independent
counsel before you sign?
- If the mediator is not also a lawyer, does he/she recommend
that each of you retain a lawyer to inform you of your legal rights and obligations and to
review all agreements before final signing of the settlement? Is he/she qualified to
prepare the legal documents and agreements? If not, who will do so?
- Will you maintain control, so that you only sign when you
- To build trust, will your mediation sessions always include
your spouse? Will you be allowed, however, to have an individual caucus by phone with your
mediator if there is a sensitive issue to discuss?
- Will you and your spouse receive summary letters after each
session documenting interim agreements?
- Will you be given clear tasks to perform to move forward in
a timely manner?
- Will the mediator work at your pace to reduce stress?
- Does the mediator meet with you in a peaceful atmosphere?
Is he or she serene and composed?
- How will the mediator make you feel comfortable?
- Will he or she enforce positive ground rules that require
respectful behavior (i.e., no interrupting, no accusing, no yelling, etc.) so that both
parties feel safe and secure?
- Does the mediator have you sign a confidentiality agreement
to protect your privacy?
- Will the mediator balance the power so that one of you
doesn't feel controlled or bullied by the other? What approach will the mediator use to
empower you when you are fearful of asking for what you want?
- How will he/she deflect conflict and keep both of you
focused on problem-solving instead of arguing?
- How will the mediator help both of you to honor your
interim commitments as you move through the process?
- What will the mediator do to make sure that both parties
fully disclose all issues and financial documents so that property can be divided fairly
and support calculated correctly?
- How will the mediator deal with the intense emotions that
are revealed in session? Will he/she listen effectively and help the parties to express
their feelings to clear the air so that negotiations are enhanced and forgiveness can take
- How will the mediator deal with difficult issues that you
don't understand, such as stock options, business evaluations, and retirement issues? Will
he/she arrange for you to jointly agree to use neutral experts to assist you in making
- What tools does the mediator use to guide the parties to
- How does the mediator resolve emotionally charged child
- What processes will the mediator use to help heal the
Once you have interviewed and chosen a
mediator with whom both of are comfortable, you'll need to do some "peace" work
yourself to prepare for the process. A skilled mediator will encourage you to take steps
to ensure your serenity and success.
"It is understanding that gives us
an ability to have peace. When we understand the other fellow's viewpoint, and he
understands ours, then we can sit down and work out our differences."
-- Harry S. Truman
Work on your own serenity. Get help
understanding your emotions. Reading self-help books on relationships is helpful; however,
the feedback and reflection you receive from a family therapist may be more productive.
Your feelings of hurt, loss, and disappointment are legitimate, and how you process those
emotions will have a great impact on the peacefulness of your divorce and your life right
Empower yourself with information about
your legal rights. Reading Divorce Magazine and visiting www.DivorceMagazine.com,
other divorce-related Internet sites, and the legal section of your favorite bookstore or
library will give you additional knowledge. Being well-informed enables you to ask good
questions and feel more confident. Consider an appointment with a family-law attorney to
give you advice as independent counsel -- just make sure that this attorney supports the
Nurture yourself. Take care of your body,
mind, and spirit. Divorce is a stressful transition that can feel overwhelming at times.
Get spiritual counseling. Make time for Mediation and prayer. Exercise, walk, run, or
swim. Use other activities to relieve the stress in your body. Long baths, a massage,
nature hikes, and inspirational literature will nourish you. Be kind and gentle with
yourself -- you deserve it!
Commit to ending the cycle of blame,
guilt, and resentment. Recognize that you and your spouse did the best you could with the
tools you had. You both made mistakes and had failed expectations. Each of you was only
50% responsible for the problems in your marriage. Don't focus on what your spouse did or
didn't do. Focus on the present, and how you can be fair to yourself, your children, and
your spouse. The greatest gift you can give to yourself is peace of mind. Your serenity
will also be calming for your children and support your desire for a peaceful divorce.
"Peace does not dwell in outward
things, but within the soul."
-- Francis Fenelon