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Divorce Mediation Expectations

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What Can I Expect When I Go to Divorce Mediation?

It’s no secret that divorce can be a difficult process. What can start as an amicable divorce filled with the best of intentions can quickly turn into a contentious and frustrating process that could drag out for months or longer. Whether your divorce has taken a turn for the worse or you simply want help arriving at a mutually beneficial agreement with your spouse, divorce mediation is a process that can help you find the resolution you are looking for.

With mediation, both parties are able to express their wants and needs through an independent third party who can help navigate the difficult conversations surrounding child support, child custody, spousal maintenance, property division, and many other facets of the final divorce agreement. This neutral facilitation can enable you to find the middle ground you are ultimately seeking.

Certainly, every divorce is different, and the circumstances a couple faces can vary significantly. As a result, determining what you can expect from your divorce mediation process is not an exact science; instead, it depends on the details of your divorce and the personalities both you and your spouse bring to the table. However, it’s important to build a better understanding of the mediation process so you can be better equipped to determine whether you would benefit from utilizing it in your case.

What Is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is a collaborative decision-making process a couple may utilize to reach an agreement on the details of their divorce. In this process, a third-party individual known as a mediator helps the couple and their respective attorneys to discuss the terms of the divorce while attempting to ensure that both sides are heard. The ultimate goal is to find the path to a divorce agreement that benefits both parties.

It’s important to note that while mediators are typically attorneys, they are not permitted to advise or represent one party. As a result, the role of the mediator is not to make the decisions for the couple but rather to help ensure participation in effective communication that helps them reach an agreement that can make both parties happy. During mediation, the mediator will meet with both parties and their attorneys either separately or together to discuss each point of contention in the divorce agreement.

Throughout the mediation process, the mediator will provide the necessary resources and information to help the couple make informed decisions. With the help of the mediator, the conversations can remain constructive in nature and ensure the parties quickly reach the necessary agreements to finalize the divorce. For many couples, this process provides the amicable end to the process they seek without the intimidation and public scrutiny often associated with the litigation process. If an agreement is reached, it will need to be approved by a judge, at which point the divorce is finalized.

What Will Be Decided During Mediation?


Couples can make decisions regarding the following issues during mediation:

  • Property division : Community and separate property will be distinguished during an accounting of all the couple’s property, and all community property will need to be divided.
  • Child custody : There are two types of custody in Arizona: parenting time and decision-making. Parenting time determines who will live with the child and care for them, while decision-making concerns who will make important decisions on the child’s behalf.
  • Child support : Both parents are required to provide for their children financially until they reach adulthood.
  • Spousal maintenance: Spousal maintenance, otherwise known as spousal support in other states, is intended to provide a lower-earning spouse with the money they need to support themselves until they can become self-suffici

Again, it is important to note that although divorcing spouses will reach an agreement on the above terms during mediation, the final divorce agreement (and parenting plan, if relevant) must be approved by the judge.

Benefits of Mediation

The goal of mediation is to create a divorce agreement that outlines agreeable solutions for the separating couple. Rather than looking at the divorce through the lens of the past, mediation helps the couple look ahead and make decisions based on the present and future lives of both spouses. Mediation presents many benefits for divorcing couples, including:

Cost Savings

Divorces can be particularly expensive when they are litigated in court. Between attorney fees and court costs, the litigation process can be costly as disagreements drag out the process. Mediation provides a solution that can help the couple reach a final agreement more quickly and save money because of the reduction in fees.

Time Savings

The divorce could be resolved more quickly. In an effort to create an agreeable solution, there is also a focused effort on resolving matters as quickly and effectively as possible. Often completed in just a few sessions, couples are able to sign the divorce settlement much more quickly than in a divorce that goes to court.

More Control

Unlike a litigated divorce, which relies on arguments from attorneys and a judge, who dictates the final outcome, mediation allows a couple to take control of the decisions. While the agreement must be approved by the court, the decisions are made by the couple, not by others.

Private Process

In a fully litigated divorce that goes through the court system, the records will eventually be subject to public records laws. This means that the details of the divorce become available to the public. The mediation process is kept confidential and is not subject to becoming public unless both individuals agree the records can be admitted into evidence.

Resolving Conflict

The mediation process allows the couple to better navigate difficult and contentious issues that may otherwise have led to arguments and negativity. The mediation process helps the couple process the difficulties together so that they can resolve issues peacefully and quickly.

These are just a few of the benefits of mediation as compared to the litigation process. By ending their marriage amicably while accessing the benefits of mediation, you can protect your individual interests and assert your right to privacy.

Divorce Mediation Basics


Learn more about the basics of family law mediation, including the mediator’s role, how to prepare, and more.

The Mediator’s Role

The role of the mediator is what makes the mediation process unique when compared to litigation or other collaborative options. The mediator does not represent either party but rather focuses their efforts on helping both sides have a voice and an opportunity to assert their rights.

A mediator will facilitate the discussion and ensure that both spouses have the opportunity to express their wishes. They will encourage both parties to discuss their questions and concerns and wait for an answer rather than arguing. When the spouses find themselves sidetracked or argumentative, the mediator can help bring them back to the focus of the discussion so they can return to a solution-based conversation. Ultimately, mediators encourage compromise and help the parties reach decisions that are fair to each party.

The mediator will remain a neutral party, as they are not an attorney arguing for one side or the other. They are not there to take sides or make decisions but rather to create the space necessary for productive conversations while keeping the process confidential.

Divorce Mediation Preparation

Mediation is intended to create a collaborative but direct process where both spouses have the opportunity to be heard. There are three main parts of the process that allow this to occur.


First, the couple will need to set realistic expectations. For mediation to work, both parties need to understand that there must be some level of compromise in order to reach the final agreement. Mediation is not about getting what you want but about finding the common ground that both parties can accept in order to move forward.

Identifying a Focus

Second, the couple will need to identify the key areas on which they will focus their negotiations. The discussions will center on the main elements of the divorce agreement, including child support, child custody, spousal maintenance, and property division. The mediator guides the discussions to keep the conversation solution-based and forward-focused. With flexibility in expectations and honesty with their needs, the couple is more likely to find the middle ground they are looking for.

Productive Discussions

Third, both parties need to ensure they articulate their goals clearly and succinctly. Concerns should be discussed from the beginning of the process in order to better articulate what they want. They should be firm on what they hope to achieve but willing to listen to the other person so that they can find agreeable terms.

Steps to Follow to Prepare for Mediation

To ensure you achieve each of the three steps to a successful mediation, it’s important to spend time preparing for the mediation process by focusing on the following:

Know Your Rights

You must educate yourself on the rights you are afforded in the divorce process. You can ask your attorney to review the legal rights afforded to you. Your attorney should be looking to preserve those rights during mediation and beyond.


There are many outside elements involved in divorce. Unfortunately, even if you have the best of intentions, external factors can be distracting, causing you to overlook certain issues that could arise. By entering the mediation process with your personal goals for each decision clearly identified and organized from most to least important, you can ensure you will adequately address each of your concerns.

Gather Your Documents


Mediation involves more than just stating what you want; it requires a thorough demonstration of what you are entitled to. In order to do so, you should ensure you gather the documentation you need to support your argument. You also have an obligation to provide details like financial holdings, individual property, and more.

Determine Your Child’s Best Interests

Divorces are difficult but become far more complicated when children are involved. The needs of any children, including their activities in the community, their connection to school, and many more facets that contribute to their overall well-being are key to determining their best interests. The court will only approve a parenting plan that outlines child support and child custody that considers the child’s best interests.

Be Ready to Communicate

The mediation process only works when the couple does. While moving through the divorce process, it can be easy for communications lines to break down. Understanding what constructive communication looks like can help both parties prepare for the difficult conversations they will have. This includes more than simply stating your argument; you’ll also need to actively listen in order to understand your spouse rather than just listening to respond.

Be Prepared to be Creative

Mediation is a give-and take process. Some people may enter the process with preconceived ideas about how it will end, when in reality, creative solutions may need to be designed to achieve the resolution that leaves both parties happy. The mediator and your attorney can help ensure a mutually beneficial divorce agreement.

These are just a few of the ways that you can prepare for your mediation process. However, one of the most important steps you can take to prepare is to consult with a divorce attorney who can help guide you through the process and identify ways to prepare. Ultimately, preparing for mediation means ensuring you have an open mind and formidable representation.

What Happens in the First Mediation Meeting?

Entering mediation may be nerve-wracking at first, but with an understanding of what the first session looks like, you can ease the tension and come prepared. During the first meeting, both parties will bring relevant documentation and review this information in order to determine what decisions the couple will need to make.

As part of this process, the mediator will lay out the expectations for both parties and the norms for the mediation process. They will review the approximate timeline for the process as well as the costs associated. Some legal documents will need to be filed, and the mediator will review those documents with both parties. Once reviewed, the mediator will fill out the forms and process the filing.

If the divorce involves children, the mediator will lay out the options for custody that may be available, given the specific circumstances of the divorce. This includes any expenses associated with the child and what support may need to be paid in order to help meet those needs.

Divorce Mediation Checklist: Documents to Collect Before the First Mediation Meeting

To prepare for the first meeting, you should collect all documents that will be needed in the initial discussions.

This may include many of the following:

  • Financial statements that include all of your debts and assets, including any investments that you have
  • The most recent tax filing
  • Evidence of your income based on your most recent three pay stubs
  • A detailed list of your monthly expenses
  • Insurance information, including health and life insurance
  • Any information related to your retirement account
  • Any other financial documentation, like credit card statements and more

It is important to remember that all assets and debts amassed during the marriage are the responsibility of both spouses, regardless of whose name is associated with them (with a few exceptions for inheritances and gifts). In the eyes of the law, both spouses contribute to the overall economic success of the couple.

In addition to financial documents, spouses with children should each come with a draft of a parenting plan that they think is appropriate for meeting the child’s needs. Supporting documentation can include:

  • Work and school schedules,
  • Bills relating to the cost of parenting, such as utility bills, school tuition bills, childcare bills, and more
  • Receipts demonstrating the cost of parenting
  • A parenting journal with entries pertaining to your and the other parent’s relationship with the child
  • And more

When both parents come with this information, finding common ground can happen more easily.

The Support You Need for Arizona Divorce Mediation


Divorce mediation can be a collaborative, private, and less stressful option for you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Whether your divorce process is breaking down or you would like to find a cost-effective resolution quickly, mediation is a valid solution. Before the first meeting, it’s important to prepare for the process so that you can make the most of it. From creating a divorce mediation checklist to organizing the information you need, the way you prepare could make a difference in the final outcome.

At The Valley Law Group, our family law team is here to help you. With our knowledge and experience, we can guide you through the divorce mediation process and inform you regarding what to expect. Our divorce mediation lawyers have a thorough understanding of this process, and we can meet your needs as you take steps to finalize your divorce. Contact our team today to discover how we can help.

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