Mediation can be a very important part of a divorce proceeding. Do you feel you can reach a divorce agreement with your spouse, but things can sometimes get adversarial? Then working with a neutral, third-party mediator may be able to help. A mediator will guide the discussion and serve as a go-between during negotiations and communications. A mediator works to create an mutually-beneficial solution, but does not make any decisions for the couple.

Mediation is intended to minimize friction and to settle differences without involving the courts. This non-confrontational atmosphere aims to get spouses to use good faith negotiations to reach a conclusion. However, there are times that this form of conflict resolution can be sabotaged by one of the parties, preventing a settlement to be reached. What are these tactics and how can they be handled?

A change to a previously agreed upon decision

Before mediation takes place, there are usually discussions with respect to certain demands and offers. If one of the participants suddenly changes an offer or introduces a new demand, this may violate the good faith that mediation tries to foster. There are times when a change may be justified. For example, vital evidence may have just been discovered.

Good faith negotiations can stay on track if the parties communicate changes to agreements in a timely manner and avoid surprise announcements.

Unanticipated terms of the settlement

Often, each party focuses on the monetary settlement and fails to reveal certain conditions. These conditions could include protracted payments, substantial damages clauses, payment of attorney fees or specific wording in an agreement clause. These types of conditions should be discussed early on in the mediation process and not be hidden until later. When you are in mediation, you should always be up front and disclose your intentions immediately instead of trying to attach them to a later agreement.

Many people choose mediation because they desire a form of conflict resolution that is less contentious than litigation. When one party issues surprise demands or holds back critical information during the process, the benefits of mediation are diminished.