After watching friends endure a years-long divorce battle with aggressive lawyers who seemed to escalate the conflict more than resolve it, my husband and I made a pact not to go that route when we decided to divorce after being married for nearly a decade.
Instead, we chose mediation with a neutral third party. This method would require us to work together to divide our assets and establish child custody arrangements, and would hopefully help us preserve a decent relationship throughout the process.
We’d been separated for a year but hadn’t decided anything officially. We began having disagreements about money, so we decided it was time come up with a formal plan. We searched online for local divorce mediators who were affordable, local, and available to meet in the next week. We found one and made an appointment to see if she was a good fit.
In that first session, even though I felt ready for this step, I was anxious about facing off with my ex about finances, worried I’d be an emotional wreck, and sad to be at the point where we were admitting we couldn’t fix our problems. But the mediator put me at ease as she covered the basics, explaining that she’d walk us through the process of drafting a fair marital separation agreement. A judge would then sign it outside of court, making it official. There would be no lawyers involved and no court time for us. I felt relieved after that first session, grateful that the mediator’s businesslike approach had kept things from getting too emotional.
I’ll admit that what came next was daunting: We had to divide 10 years’ worth of possessions, figure out support arrangements, and decide on custody percentages without lawyers to advocate for each of us. But we both found the mediator to be a very helpful — and neutral — third party. She made it clear from the beginning that her goal was to fairly and equally divide our assets and to advocate for our children’s best interests in as few sessions as possible.
We both felt comfortable with her approach, so we hired her.