Divorce mediation is an excellent alternative to court proceedings. It gives you and your soon to be ex a chance to resolve issues with the help of a qualified third-party in less time and for a smaller cost than the other ways of getting a divorce. You may also find that mediation is much less contentious. Just keep in mind that it takes some effort to get the best possible results. So be prepared. We’ve listed a few things you can do to get ready for your first divorce mediation session.
Make a List of Topics You Will Discuss
The more items you can resolve during mediation, the better. Come to the proceedings with a list of items that you want to discuss and be prepared to share information about the following:
- Your assets, including savings/interest‐bearing accounts, pension accounts and plans, insurance policies, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, checking and money market accounts.
- Property: real estate (including rental property), vehicles, personal and household property.
- Liabilities: Mortgage, student loans, other debt (both personal and shared).
If you have children, also plan to talk about subjects such as custody, child support, and visitation schedule. In each case, think in terms of what you must have, areas where you can compromise, and any issues where you are willing to comply with your ex.
Talk to a Lawyer
The point of mediation is to reduce the time you spend in court. But that doesn't mean there aren't things worth taking to court, or that you shouldn't ask for legal advice. You don't want to compromise something that you should not. You also want to be clear on the exact implications of any agreements you make during mediation. Hence, it's best to consult with a lawyer and perhaps even ask them to attend mediation with you.
Don't Let Emotions Drive Your Decision-Making Process
The key to successful mediation is compromise. If you allow feelings of anger or wishful thinking to get in the way of that, you could find yourself battling in court over things you could have settled during mediation. You may be angry with your spouse. You may feel guilty. It's normal to experience a range of emotions. However, your goal should be achieving the best outcomes possible. That won't happen if emotions prevent you from giving them anything, or if you give up too much.
Get Your Documents Together
Your mediator can only help when they have accurate information. If there are disputes over amount of income, the current amount of support being paid, the value of assets, or visitation schedules, that can stall negotiations. Consider bringing pay stubs, receipts, bank statements, and other documents to back up the points you are making.
Don’t Rely on Bad Information
Remember that mediation is something that works differently from state to state, and from case to case. Stories you hear from friends and family members may not match what you will experience. Instead, your best sources of information are your attorney and your mediator. Be wary of self-appointed legal experts.
Mediation can benefit both you and your spouse by saving you time and money instead of pursuing issues in court. There can also be less of an emotional toll. The key is to gather information, get good advice, and be prepared to compromise.