If You Can’t Bargain for Yourself, Maybe Mediation Isn’t for You! by Don Sinkov{3:48 minutes to read} One of the elements of a successful mediation is the client’s ability to bargain in their own self interest. Often, I have one spouse who is more concerned about what is going to happen to their soon-to-be ex-spouse than they are about themselves.

When I see that, I say, “Listen, your spouse is concerned about him or herself, and you’re concerned about them also, so there are two people concerned about them but who is expressing concern for you. For this mediation to be successful, you have to speak up for yourself and play a part in constructing what you both believe is a fair settlement.

Sometimes I’m faced with a couple who has reached an agreement on their own that I’m very uncomfortable with. You know, like one spouse getting all the cash and retirement assets while, in exchange, the other spouse gets a large home that is very expensive to maintain. When this happens, I strongly encourage the couple to go to review attorneys or, at least, consult with a financial advisor or divorce financial planner. Sometimes they do, and other times they just won’t. They want the deal that they have. They think it is fair, so what are you going to do?

I remember one couple that initially decided to divide all the assets in half. But, the wife wanted to make sure this was an agreement that was going to work for her, so they went to a financial planner.

When they came back from the financial planner, the wife sent me an email saying, “Okay, we’ve changed the deal. We are no longer dividing our assets in half.” The financial planner told them that she would still be alright if she took only a quarter of the husband’s retirement accounts instead of half, and that alimony can be reduced by a few hundred dollars a month and she would still be able to pay her expenses.

I asked the couple to come back to mediation to discuss the changes, but they didn’t want to. They were both satisfied with this revised Agreement, although to my mind, the wife was now getting a crappy deal.

In my opinion, the financial planner turned a good deal into a not-so-good deal for the wife. However, as a mediator, I’m not supposed to advocate for one over the other or tell them they’ve got a bad deal. I’ve already tried to get them to go to review attorneys, and they refused. As frustrating as it is, what more can I do?

As much as we like to think that couples in mediation always get a better outcome than one of the alternatives, sometimes they don’t. If your spouse is ending up with all the assets and you are not getting your fair share, then you have to speak up and bargain for yourself. If you cannot do that, then maybe mediation is the wrong place for you.

About Don Sinkov

Don Sinkov Your Divorce Mediator Westchester County, NY Putnam County, NY Phone: (914) 588-6258 eMail: Info@YourDivorceMediator.com