1. A Divorce Mediator must be empathetic and an avid listener.
A good divorce mediator/attorney focuses on client’s needs, interests, agenda, objectives and questions. What makes the mediation process difficult is the fact that we have two clients, often with conflicting interests. I stay neutral, often putting myself in the client’s shoes to understand what challenges they face as they navigate divorce.
I am genuine in my interest and listen without interrupting. (Sorry, not perfect here, as sometimes I need to interrupt for the sake of time efficiency or clarity.) I reflect, or as my kids label it, “I process”. I do not try to convince clients of all I know or my point of view. I simply offer options created by my diverse experiences with hundreds of families going through the process of divorce. (note: divorce is a process. Definition of process: proc·essˈpräˌses,ˈprōˌses/ a series of actions or steps taken to achieve an end. (you plan a wedding, you should plan a divorce… see reference the wedding planner with Jennifer Lopez, ,,I should be “the divorce planner” J)
2. A Divorce Mediator should define value and success for each family faced with divorce.
I ask each client what criteria they are using to determine the value of legal/mediation services in general and then specifically, the level of value I deliver to you and how or why. I like to be clear on how you will measure success – what successful divorce mediation is for you and how you define this specifically. (Surprisingly, most families state from the onset, your primary goal is to remain friendly, civil and “like” each other after the divorce. I hear: “I do not hate him/her, I just can’t live with her/him…. Hopefully, we remain friends”).
3. Every City is different, so is every Family. A Divorce mediator needs some time to know the family, the culture, and the family organization structure.
This process of “reconnaissance” may take a few meetings. I like to take time to get to know you personally, your hobbies and passions, what drives you, what your life goals are. What are your children like? How old, school, health status? Who is the CEO of the family? Who is the CFO? What were your roles and responsibilities? I do some searching on the internet to see what I can find on LinkedIn and Facebook. I ask questions.
I recently visited Cluj. Cluj is an academic city in the heart of Romania. My cousin gave us a tour and repeatedly stated this is the “best” and “friendliest” city. Mediation clients often make similar comments. We have the easiest, friendliest divorce for you. Well, time will tell. Let’s proceed with caution and clear expectations relative to our End Result or Outcome.
The Process of Divorce has the power to change client’s minds and expectations. My experience teaches me that the Process, the steps, the thinking and re-thinking of options and alternatives determines the Outcome. Cluj is just one city. If you only lived in Cluj, you only know Cluj.
4. Use technology, automation, agendas and tools that lead to efficiency.
My “go to” tool is the Divorce Road Map. A road map describes what is like to go through the divorce process for every family. Families like to know where they are during their journeys. The family needs to know how close they are to the finish line. We continuously evaluate how effective we are at managing expectations and “where” we are in the process. I am big on agendas. We all keep an active agenda and follow up and follow through. In our firm we use technology at every step of the process. Email, electronic reminders, calendars, paperless filing, checklists, software to analyze debts and assets. ANYTHING that helps clients visualize and process and organize makes it easier, quicker and smoother. We stay on top of new trends and technology, implementing and integrating whenever it makes an impact.
5. Self Determination. We run “what if scenarios” we analyze goals, objectives and look at budget matters carefully.
I break down divorce-related issues for each family in stages and components, ”chunking it.” We prepare various “what if” financial scenarios. We prepare budgets for clients that are detailed and that have certain milestones. I create options. Best Option for “him.” The Best Option for “her.” And the numerous options of “in between.” This helps draw out the pros and cons of each option. This process leads to empowerment, understanding and Self Determination. Self Determination and Neutrality is key to successful mediation. The best agreement is one both sides can agree and adhere to and most importantly, the agreement the family creates together. I am simply a guide to the process of self-determination. The final decision rests with the family. Self-determination = [self-di-tur-muh-ney-shuh n, self-] 1. determination by oneself or itself, without outside influence. 2. freedom to live as one chooses, or to act or decide without consulting another or others.
6. Manage expectations.
As soon as we commence the process of divorce mediation we discuss and agree upon realistic deadlines and outcomes for the family. Once I begin working on a new matter, I keep the client apprised of the status of the case. We discuss any roadblocks or if we needed to expand the scope of work requested or required especially if it affects the budget. For example, families decide to valuate pensions, perform a certified valuation of the home. Some families decide to analyze financial records in great detail for the last 2, 3, 5 or 10 years. In one recent case 20 years of monthly dissipation of retirement funds directed to the overall betterment and improvements needed at a local casino. We may hire a business accountant, a valuator to put a value on collections of coins, guns, art, etc.
7. I constantly look for ways to help the family.
In our firm, we don’t limit our practice to the legal needs of our clients. Future legal needs or as importantly, personal agendas and objectives, keeps clients on our radar at all times. We can help you as you maneuver a move, try to find a new job, you need school, counseling or medical referrals, or introduce you to a civic or charitable leadership opportunity, accountant, estate planner, etc. Clients and Families are people who struggle with many of the same challenges I do, and I have built up a list of effective referrals.