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How can you and your spouse take control of your divorce?

It is no secret that a divorce can be costly, stressful, contentious and lengthy. In the end, the judge will make decisions for you. If you would prefer having more control over your own divorce--and life going forward--perhaps you should consider mediation.

Mediation explained

Divorce mediation is a cooperative process whereby you and your spouse meet with a trained mediator in more relaxed surroundings outside of court. No judge will be present. The mediator will not take sides, but she or he will guide the two of you along as you work toward crafting a mutually satisfactory settlement agreement.

How to prepare

You should know your terms going in. Ideally, what do you need out of the divorce settlement? What are you willing to give up? To prepare for mediation, make a list of both separate and marital assets, as well as your income sources and expenses. Be completely truthful: Mediation is a full-disclosure process. No matter how you feel about your soon-to-be ex-spouse, resolve to be civil and cooperative. Think of your divorce as a business decision. A practical approach should prevail over any emotional issues.

Talk it over

Before you decide on a course of action, discuss your thoughts with your spouse. A traditional divorce will be considerably more expensive than mediation and a much longer process. You may hit some snags during the property division phase if you disagree on the ownership of certain assets, but the two of you will have to abide by the judge's decision. The whole point of mediation is to work out snags together and control the outcome, all with the help of your mediator.

Looking forward

Your marriage may have lasted for years, possibly decades, and it would be worthwhile to maintain a civil and respectful relationship after the divorce process, especially if you have children. Mediation will help you accomplish that, beginning with the process of negotiating a satisfying settlement agreement that allows each of you more control over your own future than you would find in the courtroom.

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