1. Know what to expect.
Mediation is an informal way to resolve disputes. In mediation, the parties engage an impartial facilitator (the mediator). Unlike a trial, there are no evidentiary objections and the parties are usually situated in different rooms. The mediator’s job is to start a problem-solving dialogue, explore alternatives, and encourage reality-testing. While parties can be ordered to participate in mediation, the parties are free to partially settle or altogether refuse to settle the case in mediation.
2. Understand the numbers.
You have likely heard that few cases go to trial these days. That is true in all areas of law, including family law. Statistically speaking, most family law cases settle. If you rely on numbers alone, you should seriously consider the likelihood that your family law case will settle in mediation. Understanding the importance of mediation is the first step in a successful mediation.
3. Decide what is important to you and adequately prepare.
Mediation requires preparation. You would not make a decision about your pension without doing research or taking notes. Write down a list of specifically-defined goals in your family law case. Rank your goals in order of what is most important. Consider the value system of your opponent, what they would likely want, what they might care less about, and why. Committing your thoughts to paper will get you in a negotiating mindset and generate insight.
4. Be courteous and committed to the process.
If you have children, you will likely have to deal with your ex for years to come. Even if you do not have children, you and your ex likely share common friends and acquaintances. The question is not whether you must treat each other with civility. The question is: when will you extend the olive branch? Mediation is an opportunity to change the tide.
5. Capitalize on your experience, even if mediation fails.
Sun Tzu once wrote, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Sometimes mediation efforts fail and a trial becomes necessary. If that happens in your case, remember that valuable insight may be gained in mediation.