If you want to settle conflict with your partner during a divorce but don’t want to go through court proceedings, mediation is an available option. In the mediation process, you and your partner sit down with an impartial third party — a mediator — to find solutions for your divorce-related problems.

While mediation avoids expensive, stressful court proceedings, it is not without its challenges. However, preparing yourself for mediation can make the process more bearable for all parties.

Plan your approach

Don’t come into mediation with a vague sense of what you want out of your divorce. You should prepare your materials, propositions and suggestions before mediation begins to help the whole process run as smoothly as possible. Be ready to clarify or explain in case your partner has questions or disagreements.

Expect the unexpected

Mediation is not without its conflict. It’s inevitable that new information or developments may arise. In your planning, you may want to consider different opinions or alternatives that your partner might propose. Think about how you will react to them and consider whether you can find common ground on the issue. Flexibility on both parties’ parts is crucial to a successful mediation.

Maintain civility

If something unexpected does arise, remember not to turn your mediation into a fighting ground. If you disagree or find a problem with something your partner says, take notes but do not interrupt. The goal in mediation is to negotiate, not convince the mediator to choose sides or pick a winner. If you can’t come to an agreement, mediation might not be the right solution for you after all.

It’s normal to have feelings of frustration and hopelessness during a divorce. Although mediation is an alternative to taking your partner to court, that doesn’t guarantee it will be easy. However, if both parties are willing to put in the time and effort that negotiation requires, mediation can help you and your partner come to a realistic settlement option.