Emotional turmoil is at the forefront of any divorce. However, if you have decided on mediation rather than litigation, you are choosing a less stressful and contentious option. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution, and your mediator will guide you and your spouse through a process that includes the division of marital assets, child custody and visitation as well as child support and spousal maintenance.

Mediation is much less expensive, time-consuming and stressful than litigation. It is also conducted in a private and more informal environment so that you and your spouse can work together comfortably to create a mutually satisfactory settlement and control the outcome of your own divorce.

You should enter mediation ready to cooperate and negotiate. Here are three tips to help you prepare.

  1. Talk with your spouse

You must first discuss the idea of mediation with your spouse. Some couples are not good candidates for mediation due to a relationship that makes cooperation impossible. However, if you and your spouse feel you can work together to craft a workable divorce agreement, mediation may be the perfect option.

  1. Make your list

You will want to provide as much information as possible to the mediator. Therefore, put together a list of your separate and marital property including items such as real estate, financial accounts, credit card accounts, vehicles, furniture and jewelry. Include information about your salary or business income, Social Security benefits and any other income sources. The list should also show your expenses, such as the mortgage payment, utilities, monthly food bills and loans.

  1. Set your terms

Once you have developed your list of property, income and expenses, you are ready to begin negotiations with your spouse. Come to the sessions knowing what you want out of the negotiations. What assets do you want or need? Which ones can you do without? If you have children, you must also make your child-rearing preferences known. Arriving at mutually acceptable decisions about the raising of your children will help them get through the family breakup with less trauma.