Divorce mediation can be a less expensive path for couples who can communicate well and want to avoid going to court. Once you’ve chosen the path of working through your divorce through mediation, it will be stressful if you understand how that process works. If you’ve already worked through your particular situation and decided divorce mediation is the best course of action for you and your family’s specific situation and circumstances, it’s important to know what to expect next from that process.
Though divorce mediation can be less stressful than litigation, it will not completely eliminate stress. Divorce is always going to entail difficult decisions, and both parties need to be open to discussion and compromise. There are several things you can do before and during mediation to prepare yourself.
Research and Interview Mediators
It’s important for you to research several divorce mediators to see who can best assist with your circumstances. Whether you and your spouse do this together or separately is up to you. When looking for a qualified divorce mediator, it’s in your best interest to select a qualified family and divorce attorney. This way, you’ll have a mediator who understands and has experience in divorce law.
Having a divorce lawyer as your mediator is helpful as you learn your rights and obligations in divorce mediation because a qualified attorney can help you learn and understand those responsibilities. If you have concerns that you don’t want to bring up to your mediator in front of your spouse, you can always ask to speak to your mediator separately. However, it’s important to be aware that they can only answer questions of a general nature; they can’t discuss session content separately from your spouse.
It’s important when committing to divorce mediation to prepare to take the necessary time to talk and figure out issues involving the divorce. Mediation often takes longer than couples expect, as issues arise during the process that were unaccounted for. Divorce mediation can take four to twelve weeks on average. Many couples have wrongly assumed mediation can resolve within a single session. Being aware of the amount of time mediation could take allows you to be more equipped to deal with the negative emotions and gives you more realistic expectations. Keep in mind that while meditation could take weeks to months, taking your divorce to court could take months to years. The more prepared you are to schedule the needed time to discuss and work through documents and goals, the more successful mediation can be.
Outline Your Goals
Before going before your divorce mediator, it’s important to understand what you’re hoping to get out of the mediation. Understand your own goals and hopes for what you would consider a successful agreement at the end of mediation. If possible, discuss with your partner outside of mediation and work to understand what their goals are, as well. If you can both get an understanding of the other’s motivations and interests, the mediation will go much smoother. Entering mediation with the start of an agreement can move things along more efficiently and could lower disagreements.
Knowing where you agree, disagree, and what issues are negotiable are all important steps toward compromise. If talking together is not an option, it’s still helpful to write down your own goals and in which areas you are or are not willing to negotiate, so you know where you stand before mediation begins. Here is a non-comprehensive list of some common topics which can be helpful to discuss or write down your wishes for beforehand:
- Division of shared property and assets
- Wishes for future communication
- Hopes and plans for children, if you have them, both in legal custody and in future support and care
- Business, family, and premarital assets
- Alimony, or spouse support
- Future expenses and future income
- Splitting of debts and tax liabilities
Having an awareness of a small number of important issues can make negotiations go more smoothly. It also gives your mediator a jumping-off point in working with your individual situation.
Gather Information and Documents
It’s necessary to bring recent statements to mediation to provide your mediator with important financial and familial information on which they can understand the context of your situation. You only need recent statements for the first meeting, although your mediator could request much older documents. Having an organized set of documents will help provide realistic expectations about what each party can provide the other. Here are some of the documents you may want to gather:
- Individual assets
- Bank account statements
- Credit and debit card statements
- Balance of and monthly payments of debts, mortgages, and loans
- Federal and state tax return statements
- Documents regarding vehicle ownership and registration
- Retirement funds and insurance declarations
- Marriage certificate or contracts
- Children’s records, such as birth/adoption certificates, health records, school records
- Previous custody or divorce court orders
This will allow your mediator an overview of your assets and your situation to better understand how to move forward with consideration to both of you in your mediation sessions.
Be Ready to Discuss
It’s useful to know what you’ll talk about in mediation sessions, and it’s equally necessary to know how to talk. You have to be willing to negotiate rather than argue and come to agreements and compromises while keeping your emotions low. In a divorce, there is no “winning,” and mediation sessions should not be approached as if there is. If you are prepared to disagree, your expectations will be better managed for negative emotions that derive from disagreements. It’s your mediator’s job to bring up unexpected issues you may not have accounted for to prevent them from becoming a future issue.
Choosing the Right Divorce Attorney
You have many choices in divorce, and deciding that mediation is the right step for you is one of them. If divorce mediation is the right path for your relationship, it’s important to find a family attorney who can treat your situation with the integrity and compassion it deserves. The better equipped your attorney is, the more confident you can feel in the outcome of mediation. Paula D. Kleinman, A Professional Law Corporation, can provide you with competent and consideration legal counsel and mediation. Contact us today to learn more about our divorce mediation services.