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Many couples opt for divorce mediation because it can be less expensive, lengthy and combative than a litigated divorce. Mediation also gives couples more direct control over the final financial and custody agreements.

Often, people assume that a mediated divorce will be easier than a litigated one. The couple sits down in a conference room with a mediator and works out their own agreement, right? It's not that simple. Preparation is one of the keys to a successfully-mediated divorce.

How to Prepare

This preparation can and often should involve consulting with your own attorney. Both spouses can have their attorneys in the room with the mediator, although many opt not to because it's going to increase the legal fees they're trying to save.

Whether you bring your attorney to the mediation or not, you should consult with him or her on the issues before you begin the process. You should determine what you're going to ask for in each matter as well as what you're willing to accept. Both spouses will need to make compromises. However, people often give away too much because they feel pressured by their spouse, or perhaps feel guilty about their own behavior in the marriage, or they don't stand up for themselves.

It's helpful if you and your spouse each have an idea of what the other wants before you decide on using mediation. Sometimes couples have no idea how far apart they are in their goals until they get into the room together. If you don't think that you'll be able to work out an agreement on your own, it may be best to go straight to a litigated divorce.

It's also essential to have all of your evidence gathered and easily available when you walk into the room. It's better to have too much documentation than not enough. This will likely include financial statements, tax returns, income records and documentation of expenses. This is another area where your attorney's guidance can be crucial. He or she may also recommend that you bring a financial advisor, accountant and/or other experts to help you out during the mediation, particularly if your spouse is more knowledgeable or experienced in these areas than you are.

Is Mediation Right for You?

If you and your spouse are considering a mediated divorce, it's a good idea to talk with attorneys who have represented clients in divorce mediation and/or have been mediators themselves. This can help you determine whether you and your spouse have a good chance at a successfully mediated divorce.