Ground Rules for Divorce Mediation
Set up some ground rules at the outset of mediation. Have a plan to protect yourself before you plunge in. You may have decided not to have a lawyer to act as your advocate and representative in the mediation process.
Agree to participate in good faith negotiations in an attempt to produce a tentative agreement; however, no agreement will be binding until you review it with an attorney and approve it. Inform your spouse and the mediator of this, then proceed with the mediation. You’ll have a safety net in place to protect you against dangers you may not be aware of.
It may not be easy to find an attorney willing to step in and review an agreement already drafted. The attorney hasn’t participated in the investigation and analysis leading up to the proposed settlement. The attorney’s malpractice exposure is overwhelming when compared with the money to be made for a few hours review, research and discussion with you.
Protect yourself by locating an attorney in advance using the Case Evaluation you prepared following recommendations in Chapter Four and the method outlined in Chapter Six. With a commitment in hand from an attorney to review the tentative agreement when it is developed, and perhaps a few suggestions from your attorney, you are ready to begin the mediation.
The second ground rule is that each of you has a right to expect cooperation from the other. If one of you believes the other is sandbagging the process, the mediator will be asked to deal with delay as with any other problem. This doesn’t mean you can’t agree to a cooling-off period and put the decision making on hold while each of you calm down. A cooling-off period can be helpful whether or not you go to an attorney, as long as you have the necessary assurances in place as outlined in Chapter Eight. But don’t let your spouse frustrate the mediation process by dragging it out endlessly, hoping for things to get better or for the divorce to go away.