If you want to keep conflict to a minimum in your upcoming divorce, mediation could be the best way to achieve that goal. Many couples in Virginia find that mediation can help them sort out their concerns about property division and child custody arrangements without the stress or expense of litigated divorce proceedings.
Mediation is a cooperative process where each party has their own legal representation and a neutral mediator helps them find compromises. Entering mediation negotiations in good faith with the intention to resolve your issues is admirable. However, to secure the best possible outcome, you will also want to prepare before you sit down at the mediation table with your ex.
Recognize that compromise is often necessary
Unless your spouse has a history of being conflict-avoidant and logical, it may not be the best approach to open mediation with the request for exactly what you want. Emotions will inevitably take over, and your ex will likely try to push back on certain terms and request some concessions from you. Setting your sights a little higher than your ideal outcome can give you some room to compromise as the mediation process unfolds.
Figure out ahead of time what outcome is reasonable
Having at least a cursory understanding of Virginia’s property division and custody laws or the implication of any marital agreement you signed with your spouse can give you an idea of what would potentially occur in a litigated divorce.
Reviewing your finances and physical assets can give you a better understanding of what property and debts you need to split up during mediation. It can also help you place a value on different property so that you can advocate for a fair split, regardless of the specific terms that you reach.
Collect financial documents and other records that help defend your position
You don’t go to mediation to fight with your ex over the reasons that you filed for divorce. However, those issues can sometimes have a bearing on what is fair and reasonable when setting terms for your divorce.
Exploring your household circumstances in-depth with your lawyer before you go to mediation can help you gather the necessary documentation and structure the way that you present your side of the situation. Presenting factual evidence about the financial effect of an affair will likely be a more successful tactic than becoming emotional or aggressive because of that infidelity.
You should also be prepared for things to become emotional or take longer than a single session. Having realistic expectations about the process and possible outcome, as well as a commitment to resolve issues now can help set you up for success during divorce mediation.