What Can I Do Before My Divorce Mediation?

Preparing for Divorce Mediation

Two young caucasian office worker starting to fight

Hopefully your mediation won’t look like this picture (at least because the mediator should be in the picture too), but following these suggestions might help for a smooth process.  For some people, mediation will be the preferred legal process that they can take to access the results that they want, while maintaining an agreeable relationship with other parties involved. Mediation can be a possible way to ensure that your relationship ends in a healthy way, promoting an easier future for yourself, and any children involved. However, even if you have decided that professional mediation is the ideal option for you, this doesn’t mean that you won’t be nervous about your first session. The chances are you’ll find yourself wondering what you should expect, how you should prepare, and what might be expected from you.

The first thing to recognize is that the mediation process is intended to help people manage or resolve disputes by reaching mutual agreements about a situation. In order to reach an agreement with the other party involved, you will need him/her to cooperate with you on the pursuit of conclusions that are beneficial to both of you. Mediation is not a debating practice that requires individuals to prove that their stance is the right one. You don’t need to convince the other party to think differently or ignore what he or she thinks is important. The mediation process is not intended to assign blame, find fault or punish any party, and it must be done on a voluntary basis, otherwise it is less likely to end in a successful outcome.

With this in mind, here are some steps that could help you in preparing for your first family law or divorce mediation experience.

Organize Your Financial Documents

Although it is possible for clients to start the mediation process without any information at hand, you will save money and time by assembling the information ahead of schedule. Start by making a list of all the assets that you have to consider, including a bank account, mutual funds, retirement funds, brokerage accounts, vehicles, businesses, real estate, time shares, annuities, household contents, equity, stock, and pending law-suits. Bear in mind that if you or your partner owns interest within a business, the mediation process may need to give this concept special attention, so try to inform your professional mediator as early as possible.

Ensure that you know the exact balances of all retirement funds and bank balances, and make a note of the balance and monthly payments made on your home equity loan and mortgage, any credit card balances, and loan balances. If you borrowed money within the circle of your friends or family, ensure that you have solid information regarding those finances too. Often, an organized list or spreadsheet will be incredibly useful when it comes to saving all parties involved money and time in the mediation process. You can work on the list alongside your partner, or on a separate basis according to your specific needs.

Understand Your Rights

An important part of making sure that mediation works for you, is knowing your legal rights and obligations. Take the time to gather as much information as possible about the mediation process through online articles, books and other sources. You should never engage in any legal process without the knowledge that you are making an informed and reasonable decision. Educate yourself on the different terms that you might encounter, and the implications of your chosen course of action. A lot of professionals will offer the opportunity for you to speak with them during consultations, so make sure that you take advantage of this, and ask any questions that you might have. Review attorneys are always advisable to consult with prior to, during, and once an agreement is reached during a mediation. I always recommend if the party has not consulted with a review attorney ahead of time, that once a stipulation or settlement agreement is drafted, that they should hire a review attorney to go over it with them.

Remember, just because you are engaging in mediation with your partner doesn’t mean you won’t be able to speak to your mediator alone. If you have concerns, then you also have the right to express those concerns. Ask for a few minutes alone with your mediator if you need to ask a couple of private questions, and nothing you mention will be discussed with the other party. Many professional mediators recognize that you can’t always discuss everything with your ex-partner in the room, and a few moments of private discussion here and there can help the process to go more smoothly. Remember, it is also possible for the other party for ask for this private time, and you will need to be respectful of that.

Try to keep calm

In its simplest form, mediation can be considered a form of negotiation. Although the concept of a divorce procedure is emotional in its’ very nature, allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by those emotions during mediation will rob you of the clear head needed to achieve the best possible outcome for yourself, and everyone else who may be involved, including your children. No matter how strained you may feel, mediation shouldn’t be seen as an opportunity to attack the other party. Come to mediation as composed as you possibly can, and you will find that the process goes a lot more smoothly.

Ask yourself what you want out of the mediation process, and use the advice and guidance of your professional mediator to come to terms about how you might accomplish your goals within the scope of what is reasonably possible.

Voice your issues

One of the most important parts of the mediation process is coming to terms with the results that both parties hope to achieve. Express your concerns and get them on the table, in writing so that they might be discussed and negotiated. You might find that your greatest concern is about the amount of travel time you will get with children, whereas other people are concerned about specific family members that the children may spend time with. No matter how small, no concern is irrelevant, and you should always talk about the things that matter to you. By being proactive, you can ensure that you set the grounds for peace of mind in your future, and productive co-parenting for any children involved.

Remember that any effective mediator will concentrate on the goals of the parties involved. Though lawyers work on proposals, an easier way to approach the mediation process is to simply ensure you go in with a good understanding of your goals. If you place trust in the professionals you work with, and the process itself, you’ll find that you often find a way to accomplish a great deal of the outcomes you hope for.

There are many more things that one can do to plan for a mediation, however these can be very useful. None of these steps are mandatory. Mediation is one of many processes to deal with family law issues. As usual, please read our other Web pages and blog entries for more information about family law, matrimonial issues, mediation, collaborative law and litigation. Feel free to contact us about booking your free, thirty-minute initial consultation – it would be our pleasure to talk to you about your legal needs.