The Divorce Mediation Process
Although every mediator will have their own style, the general process of mediation is pretty consistent.
Before the mediation, you might speak with the mediator or an assistant and provide background information about your marriage, your family, and the issues in your divorce. Or your mediator might have you fill out a questionnaire. The mediator might also ask you to write up a "mediation statement" outlining your basic information and the divorce-related issues you think need to be resolved.
The mediator might also ask you to sign an agreement that says that you'll keep what's said in the mediation confidential and that you understand that the mediator can't disclose any of what goes on in your session in court.
Unless you do online mediation, mediation sessions are usually held in a conference room or comfortable office. Some mediators meet with everyone in the same room for the entire mediation, while others might break the spouses out into separate rooms for private discussions. For couples who have attorneys with them at mediation, the mediator might ask to meet privately with both sides before beginning the session.
After the mediator takes care of housekeeping issues such as the agenda for the session, you'll probably get a chance to make a short statement about your situation, as will your spouse. After you've each had a chance to speak, the mediator might ask some questions to clarify or get more information. Your mediator might repeat or summarize your points to confirm that they understand what you're trying to say.
The next step will be to figure out what issues you and your spouse really agree and don't agree on.
The two most important things you can do to reach an agreement are to:
be open to compromise and
listen to (and try to understand) your spouse's point of view.
Understanding your spouse's position doesn't mean you have to agree with it. But it's possible that, once you've listened closely to your spouse's concerns, you'll have new ideas about how to resolve disagreements.
Completing the Agreement
If you finish negotiations and resolve some or all of your divorce-related issues, the mediator will write an agreement and, in many cases, a parenting schedule or parenting plan. Your settlement agreement will include only the topics that you resolved during mediation. (If you aren't able to agree on all the topics, you'll have to either agree on the unresolved issues later or ask a court to decide them after a court hearing.)
Some mediators will help you file divorce your paperwork with the court; others won't (You'll want to ask potential mediators about the scope of the services they provide.)
If the court approves your settlement agreement, the agreement will become part of the final divorce decree. You can then enforce the terms of the settlement agreement just as you would any other order from a court.
How to Get Started with Divorce Mediation
Unless a judge orders you and your spouse to attempt mediation, divorce mediation is voluntary. That means you and your spouse will have to agree to mediate. If your spouse is on board, your next step is to find a knowledgeable, skilled divorce mediator.