Divorce is likely to be a painful, stressful, and frustrating process, even if you are sure that your marriage is over, and divorce is entirely necessary for moving into the next phase of your life. No matter what your divorce entails, it is essential to be prepared for the legal side of the process. While your divorce may informally begin once you and your spouse decide to end your marriage, the formal process starts once one of you files a divorce petition with your Midwest family court.

While you may have some idea as to how your divorce is likely to unfold, it’s imperative to know your options when it comes to handling the process. You do not need to undergo a lengthy and expensive court battle. If you and your spouse are open to the idea of alternative dispute resolution, both of you can save time and money in your divorce. You can also reach a resolution much more quickly than litigation would allow.

In the Midwest and throughout the United States, divorce mediation has become the most popular alternative dispute resolution for divorcing couples. However, knowing a few basic tips as you prepare for the process is essential if you want to take full advantage of this option.

Hire a Reliable Midwest Divorce Attorney

The most important asset to have on your side during any divorce case is reliable legal counsel from an experienced Midwest divorce attorney. Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of believing that divorce mediation is just a private negotiation between divorcing spouses, allowing them to circumvent the need for an expensive and time-consuming court battle. While mediation can allow you to avoid much of the stress and expense of the typical divorce process, you still need legal counsel you can trust to navigate this process successfully.

Hiring the right attorney means you will be able to approach each mediation session with confidence. Your legal team will carefully review all aspects of your divorce case, so you know what to expect as it unfolds. During mediation, you and your spouse will discuss each aspect of your divorce one at a time, sometimes covering multiple subjects in a single session. In addition, you and your spouse may choose to have your respective attorneys attend some or all of your sessions. Thus, mediation will entail several collaborative sessions with your attorney, your spouse, their attorney, and the mediator.

Your attorney will guide you through the mediation, and you can have them with you as much or as little as you like. Ultimately, this means that you have legal counsel available whenever you need it and a safeguard that will ensure you do not agree to unfair or unreasonable divorce terms.

Collaborate as Much as Possible Before Beginning Your Legal Proceedings

You and your spouse can streamline your divorce mediation if you enter the process with a mutual understanding concerning some of the essential items relevant to your divorce. For example, the formal divorce process typically entails property division, alimony determination, and child custody decisions. While you cannot expect to make many firm decisions entirely on your own, if you and your spouse enter the divorce mediation process already having some idea of each other’s needs and goals, you can significantly cut the time required for the divorce.

If you and your spouse can be reasonable with one another, it is worth taking the time to draft the framework for your divorce on your own. Remember that while you cannot create firm divorce terms on your own, your respective attorneys can use the drafted agreement the two of you have created to serve as a foundation for your divorce resolution. This means your respective legal teams can spend time refining your agreement instead of building it from the ground up, saving both of you time and money.

Be Reasonable and Responsive

Divorce mediation requires collaboration and a mutual willingness to negotiate. If either you or your spouse is combative, unreasonable, or unwilling to engage in practical negotiations, divorce mediation could require more time than you initially expected. While your divorce may be emotionally charged, do your best to remain emotionally neutral throughout your mediation sessions. It’s common for divorcing spouses to pick fights with one another or allow their emotions to overtake rationality. Stay calm during your negotiations and do your best to be objective about each item you discuss.

If you and your spouse cannot have a civil conversation, or if your divorce involves significant emotional issues that make it extremely difficult for you to remain objective when negotiating with them, this does not mean divorce mediation is off the table. Your respective attorneys can essentially handle communications between the two of you, relaying each other’s responses through the mediator. This will take longer, but it will allow the two of you to continue taking advantage of the benefits of mediation without needing to sit face to face through the entirety of your mediation sessions.

Do as Much as You Can in Mediation Before Moving to Litigation

Ultimately, you may discover that mediation will not allow you and your spouse to fully settle your divorce outside the courtroom. However, this does not mean mediation is not an option; it simply means that you and your spouse should cover as much as you possibly can in mediation before going to court to settle the rest of your divorce-related issues.

Some issues will compel the two of you to court no matter how mediation unfolds. For example, you cannot settle child custody and child support in mediation. The family courts of the Midwest have a legal duty to ensure that any custody and support agreement suits the best interests of the children it will affect. This means you and your spouse can draft a proposal for a parenting plan, but the court must review and approve it before it will take effect. In addition, you and your spouse might encounter other issues that the two of you cannot resolve in mediation. Remember that you can table these issues and move onto other aspects of your divorce to settle as much as possible before going to court to finalize the remaining issues of your divorce.

It’s natural to feel uncertain and stressed about an impending divorce. However, if you want to approach this situation with greater confidence, it’s essential to speak with a reliable and experienced Midwest divorce attorney as soon as possible to discuss your concerns and legal options.