When a divorce goes to court, the litigation process may be lengthy, expensive and deeply stressful to both parents and children. Divorce mediation offers a potentially healthier alternative when ex-spouses are willing to try to work together.

During mediation, a neutral third-party advisor assists both partners in negotiating important details about property division, custody, support payments and other issues. In addition to providing legal guidance, the mediator tries to help divorcing spouses to communicate and resolve both emotional and financial needs and goals.

However, divorce almost inevitably involves intense emotions, even when both partners want to separate on good terms. Here are a few quick tips to help those considering mediation.

1. Keep communication focused

Mediation often works best when couples can agree to a collaborative rather than combative approach. Feelings of frustration and antagonism are natural, but they can easily sideline a potentially constructive conversation. Before each mediation session, it may be helpful to make a simple list of items or issues that are especially important to keep communication focused.

2. Know that difficult is normal

From dividing shared property to deciding on workable parenting plans, divorce inevitably involves making difficult and often complicated decisions. It is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed at times. Planning to take even a brief break for self-care before or after a mediation meeting may help separating partners to destress and think more clearly.

3. Participate in a parent education program

When a divorce involves mutual children, participating in a parent education program may be invaluable. These programs help families cope with the process of separating and creating a healthy path forward. In addition to teaching co-parenting skills and helping ex-spouses to maintain a respectful relationship, these classes may help to minimize emotional harm to children.

4. Feel free to consult with multiple professionals

Divorce mediators can often refer couples to other professionals during the negotiation process. From tax and financial advisors to child specialists, seeking help from multiple sources may help families struggling with unique circumstances.