Adequately preparing for mediation can help divorcing couples increase the likelihood that their disputes will be resolved without the complication and expense of going to trial. Whether financial issues are a concern, assets are at stake, or parenting time is up for debate, preparation should include identifying issues that need to be addressed, gathering relevant information and documentation, and developing a negotiation strategy to encourage a mutually acceptable agreement.
Identifying Topics of Concern and Evaluating Expectations
The first step in preparing for mediation is to identify the issues that need to be addressed and evaluate the expectations of each spouse. Spouses should consider how health and life insurance, personal property, real estate, vehicles, and other assets and debts should be divided. They should also think about spousal maintenance, parenting time if children are involved, and even who will care for the family pets.
Organizing Financial Documents
Couples must take inventory of their assets, including retirement funds, bank accounts, timeshares, and high-value household contents before beginning mediation. Debts and other shared expenses should also be listed. Organizing all of this on a spreadsheet helps many couples be prepared for the mediation process.
Gathering financial documents before mediation also helps guide negotiations, ensure accuracy, and divide property and debts equitably.
Divorce often includes heated debates and when couples give in to their emotions, negotiations will struggle. Before going to mediation, divorcing spouses should get their emotions under control so they will be able to focus on making wise decisions.
Couples Should View Mediation as Negotiation
Couples should remember that mediation is a negotiation, not a fight. They should use good negotiating tactics to arrive at a mutually beneficial agreement. To negotiate, each party needs to know what it is they want out of the proceedings. Defining this before heading to mediation will help couples come to a beneficial agreement.
A family law attorney can serve as a neutral mediator as long as neither party is hiring that attorney to represent him or her in the divorce. The mediation process can reduce much of the stress of the divorce process. By adequately preparing before mediation, many couples can skip the court process altogether.