How to Know You Have a Healthy Mindset for Divorce Mediation

By Lenore Myers, Esq.

You and your spouse recognize that divorce mediation will empower you to make the most informed decisions in your own best interest and that of your family. You are preparing for your first mediation session, but are you in the best mindset to mediate successfully and negotiate for yourself and your family?mediation-mindset-3

Unfortunately, I’ve seen some spouses come to mediation making a false assumption.  They think the process is a time to present “evidence” for themselves and against their spouse- the opponent- all in an effort to convince me, the mediator, to rebalance their scales.  Sounds like a court case. 

This mindset is majorly flawed and useless, because I am not a judge.  I am a divorce mediator. As a mediator,  I don’t take sides.  I try to facilitate spouses coming to a compromise that is a fair resolution for everyone.

You can’t show up believing this is a win-lose situation. 

So how do you know if you have a healthy mindset for divorce mediation?

Before spouses begin mediation with us, for example, they must agree to embrace what our firm calls a “mediation mindset.”  

That means, we ask them to come to mediation in a focused frame of mind - ready to do a business deal.

Here are 4 signs you know you have a healthy mindset for mediation:

  • You Show up Differently
  • You Set Boundaries
  • You Listen and Are Clear
  • You Expect Productive Discussions

You recognize it’s the dawn of a new day. The marriage is over and you are in divorce mediation to negotiate a business deal.

Sign #1  -  You Show Up Differently

You both must show up to the mediation table with a clear mind and a healthy attitude. Divorce mediation cannot be successful if you take actions or makes decisions while angry, resentful or in a hurt place. In order to be able to be in a mindset for mediation, you need to seek out other sources of support as needed so that your emotions will not get in the way of the process - and in order to keep your spirits up.  

Also, the dynamic of your marriage does not dictate the flow of the mediation.  You and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are on equal-footing now going forward. So, if you were the one controlling the finances - don’t expect to control the outcome of how assets should be split in the mediation room.  Just as importantly, if you spent more time raising the kids - don’t expect to control all the decisions regarding their well-being.  Everyone has a voice and will be encouraged to speak up in mediation, no matter how things went in the marriage.

You agree to treat each other with dignity and acknowledge that each of you has played a valuable role in the marriage.

 Sign  #2 -  You Set Boundaries

You must also agree to preserve the marital estate and not sell, trade or devalue or dispose of marital property.

If you are a parent, agree not to speak ill of the other parent to your children. You need to reinforce that you both love and will protect your children. You also  should acknowledge to one another that you are both good parents in your own way. Consider your children’s needs in all decisions.

In order for a couple to be successful in mediation you must focus on the future and not the past. Treat each other with dignity and acknowledge that each of you has played a valuable role in the marriage. It does not serve the process if a person brings up the past, lays blame or fixates on irrelevant topics. You must stay away from topics that are irrelevant to moving forward ( ie infidelity).

An experienced divorce mediator is trained to help you with this.

You agree to treat one another with respect.

Sign #3 -     You Listen and are Clear

During mediation you should ask for what you need first instead of what you want.

In order for you  to be clear what your spouse wants, you must be ready to listen. To participate successfully in mediation you cannot interrupt your spouse, but instead let your spouse fully express his or her ideas and not criticize when he or she disagrees with you. Ask questions to further understand and validate your spouse’s thoughts and opinions.   

Also, you should not put your spouse on the spot to make quick decisions, but instead schedule time to talk.

Show up in a positive frame of mind, trust in the mediator and the mediation process, and you can expect to get a fair result.

Sign #4 - You Expect Productive Discussions

Lastly, remember that you paid a highly trained professional to do what you and your spouse cannot do well on your own, which is to facilitate and help you both resolve issues around the biggest sticking points - finances and the kids.  Expect things will be different than when you both tried to talk about it on your own.

Also, come with a mindset that all the options will be laid out for you, and be open to several solutions.  You don’t have all the answers.  A single solution mindset is a trap that will cause resistance to resolution and stall the process.

So come to divorce mediation with a sense of trust in the mediator and the mediation process, and you can expect to get a fair result.

About the Author

Lenore Myers, Esq.

Picture of Lenore Myers, Esq. Lenore M. J. Myers is a divorce and parenting mediator with the Main Line Family Law Center. She has been practicing law with a concentration in Family Law in southeastern Pennsylvania for the past 28 years. In addition to her role as mediator, she serves as custody conciliator for Montgomery County, PA family court. In this role, she assists families in reaching peaceful agreements to avoid their custody cases being resolved by judicial intervention.

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