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You are separated. Your partner wants you to go to mediation to work out a dissolution agreement, but you have misgivings about it .. If this describes you, this article was written to address your concerns.

First of all, there is a roller coaster of feelings with every separation. After everything that has happened to get you to this point, you may have built up considerable distrust or suspicion of your partner. In fact if he (she) wants something, you might immediately suspect it will negatively affect you. The person you thought you married has vanished and in their place is the unreasonable person you are dealing with now. So, it's natural to question his or her suggestion now to mediate. Besides, mediation may be unfamiliar territory to you. During stressful times, most of us are reluctant to try new things. With all that said, why bother to consider mediation? The answer is simple. It may be the best alternative for resolving you and your children's future.

Is your children's welfare central to your concerns and decisions? If so, you probably have ideas about how the parenting plan should be worked out. If the two of you disagree about any parts of that plan (legally called custody and visitation), it's easy for the conflict to become heated, with each person digging further into their position. Why even try to mediate in such an atmosphere?

That reason is that our skilled mediators can cool things down and help you define the issues in solvable ways, while the litigation process frequently achieves exactly the opposite. When lawyers advocate for each side, the conflict can escalate and go on for a long, expensive time. In the end, either the two lawyers will negotiate a settlement for you or the judge will decide the outcome. The risk, naturally, is that it would not be the one you seek. Alternately, in mediation, you have a chance to make these critical family decisions for yourselves. The court rarely turns down negotiated settlement.

So the personal stakes are high, and it makes sense tor react with caution to any proposal, whether it's about mediation, custody, finances, or parenting plans. The challenge is to make an informed decision, not a defensive one.

What are some of the most common concerns people have about mediation?
  1. I'll be pushed into compromising or agreeing to something that is not in my best interests.

    Our professional mediators will keep you on task and help you consider many options, possibly even ones you hadn't thought about. Our mediation team will help you search for win-win solutions, and will not pressure you to accept something you don't want. Because mediation is voluntary, you may stop the process at any time and return to the adversarial process if you wish.
  2. Without my own counsel there to advise me, I won't be able to manage.

    There is always an opportunity, actually encouragement to consult with counsel or other experts between sessions and to bring that knowledge to the next session. We also welcome advising attorneys to be present during mediation sessions, but the decision making power lies in the hands of the couple, not legal counsel.
  3. The sessions will deteriorate into mudslinging and rehashing old arguments.

    There will be some conflicts in the mediation (otherwise you'd still be together). However, our mediation team will not allow name-calling or abusive behavior. Blaming and counter blaming will be redirected back to the task at hand and focused on the future.
  4. He (she) is so unreasonable we would never get anywhere.

    As neutrals, our mediation team asks questions aimed at defining the concerns underneath the positions staked out. You may also be surprised at how civilized your partner's behavior is with the third party mediators present, compared to interactions outside the mediation room.

In summary, just because your partner wants mediation, doesn't mean it will be bad for you! Ask people who have used mediation about their experience. Sit in on a divorce case in family court to get a first-hand look at the litigation process. Consider the pros and cons objectively without being swayed by distrust and anger. Consider your own tolerance for long drawn out conflict. Think about how a legal battle would affect your children. Look at which method will best prepare you for future communication about parenting issues. Talk personally with our mediators and ask lots of questions. You'll be glad you made an informed choice that is independent of any pressure you've encountered.

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