When a divorce involves litigation, the process is often lengthy, expensive and intensely stressful for both parents and children. Today more and more Americans are turning to divorce mediation instead of the courts to make crucial decisions about their families’ futures.

Mediation offers an alternative that may save time, money and untold emotional strain for separating couples who are willing to work together to solve difficult problems regarding dividing property, making custody arrangements, settling support payments and more.

However, while mediation offers many potential benefits, the process still takes effort, patience and understanding. Here are a few quick tips for those preparing for a mediated divorce.

1. Keep sessions focused on communication

Even when both partners genuinely want to cooperate, it is not likely that they will immediately agree on everything. That is especially true when so many important decisions about the future are at stake.

With emotions running high, even a relatively minor conflict can seem insurmountable. It may be helpful to take some time before each mediation session to make a personal inventory of essential needs and concerns to keep the conversation focused on solving problems rather than dwelling on them.

2. Participate in parenting classes sooner, rather than later

These mandatory courses can be invaluable in helping newly divorced parents to develop effective co-parenting skills, maintain a mutually respectful relationship and ultimately minimize the emotional impact on children. Taking these classes early in the mediation process may also help separating parents to make more informed decisions when negotiating issues of custody and support.

3. Know that you can consult multiple neutral professionals

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to divorce. While certified mediators have specific training in both the legal aspects of separation and conflict resolution, they often encourage couples to seek assistance from other professionals who act as third-party advisors during the process.

From financial advisors and tax specialists to family and child therapists, there are many resources available for parents dedicated to creating a solid future for themselves and their children.