Divorce Mediation is often split into 5 different stages: the introductory stage, the information-gathering stage, the framing stage, the negotiating stage, and the concluding stage. Although this is the general order of divorce mediation, steps are commonly moved around depending on the needs of each case. Stages are also frequently repeated if new information arises or a spouse has a change in what he or she wants to accomplish.
In the introductory stage, the mediator will explain to the parties how they manage mediation and will lay the groundwork for how meetings will be conducted. The mediator will also take this time to learn more about the relationship between the parties and what they each want to get out of mediation. Mediators will use this stage to get a better understanding of what issues the parties agree and disagree on.
The collection of information in the introductory stage transitions into the information-gathering stage. Here, all assets, debts, insurance policies, obligations, and so on are accounted for. This information is crucial and must be known by all parties including the mediator. This stage often takes a few sessions as a comprehensive list of all assets takes time to collect. Mediators will explain how laws of the parties’ state of residence apply to their case. For example, New York State’s equitable distribution laws state that the only things divided during a divorce is marital property, anything brought into the marriage will remain with the owner. Child custody, alimony, and so on are also discussed during this stage. It’s important to bring a multitude of financial documents to the mediator so he or she can assess each party’s financial situation.
Next is the framing stage, now that it is known what each party has, the mediator helps the couple articulate their concerns, priorities, and their reasons for wanting particular assets. Mediators tend to go back and forth between this stage and the next stage: negotiation. In negotiation, mediators will address each party’s claims to assets and or custody issues and find an arrangement they can both agree on. Bargaining tends to be an ineffective method of negotiation while trading often keeps the parties satisfied and not feel taken advantage of.
The concluding stage mostly consists of putting all the agreed-upon items in writing and ensuring both parties agree with the decisions that were made. The mediator will spend this time ensuring all parties fully understand what they are agreeing to and that each spouse has gone through the agreement thoroughly. These documents can be shared with an attorney(s) if the parties have chosen to have one.