(540) 809-8683 [email protected]

Don’t start with a lawyer:

When considering a trial separation or ending your marriage new emotions arise. You’ve been feeling distant from your spouse, alone, hurt, angry, and now you’re worried and insecure about your future. Irreconcilable differences and the need for space were your main thoughts, but once a desire for a marital separation is seriously mentioned, your anxiety increases as you are confronted with uncertainty as to the practical details of splitting up time with kids, furniture, bank and retirement accounts, meeting on-going expenses, etc. You’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed and stressed out, so you seek legal advice hoping those new feelings will subside, but you leave the interview with more confusion and uncertainty.

The lawyer probably spent more time talking about divorce law in general instead of specifics about what a settlement ought to look like in your case. Probably little was said about how to get a quick resolution of the issues using mediation or collaborative law instead of hiring the lawyer to negotiate with your spouse’s lawyer and to file suit if those negotiations don’t work. On occasion the lawyer may suggest mediation, but doesn’t explain how the lawyer could coach and advise you during the mediation process. After reading “The Divorce Client’s Bill of Rights” you realize how little value you got out of your meeting with the lawyer. Start with a mediation orientation session.

Don’t start by presenting your spouse with a Marital Separation Agreement:
Lawyers often suggest you hire them to draft a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) to send to your spouse. As any mediator can tell you, this is a dysfunctional way to start. According to the author of “The Human Element,” which is a book on how to introduce new ideas, you should involve your spouse in the creation of the first draft. You do that by participating with your spouse in mediation with Blanton Massey (contact him at [email protected] or by cellphone at (540) 809-8683.

Don’t start negotiations until after sharing the facts (informal discovery, financial disclosure, etc.)
Efficiency in mediation was the title of a recent article in The Virginia Lawyer. The author writes that “Efficiency comes from the right approach and mindset.” The groundbreaking best seller “Getting to Yes” said that efficient and effective negotiations should be client-centered and needs-based, not positional. That means you start with an informal, voluntary, non-binding and confidential exchange of information such as financial data, needs and interests. Most couples know enough about each other’s situation to assure that such a non-binding, confidential disclosure made in mediation is accurate and can be confirmed by looking at third-party created documents such as bank statement, credit reports, income tax returns, etc.

Virginia Mediation uses a divorce financial planning software program (familylawsoftware.com) to clearly lay out the financial picture for 3 phases of the family’s finances: (1) before separation (family’s actual expenditures before mention of a separation), (2) living expenses during separation (transition time, with same or separate housing) and (3) after divorce. While this financial planning is not required, it usually helps clients focus on and prepare for reality and a fair resolution of issues. In mediation, the big issues are addressed early on, such as housing, custody, how current and ongoing bills will be paid (temporary support). If you can’t agree as to what the current finances are now, how can you negotiate and agree to what they mean for the future? Efficient mediators use Family Law Software to keep the parties focused on realistic, workable solutions.