6 Steps to Follow before You Start Divorce Mediation
Are you thinking about mediation for your divorce? This is an excellent option if you and/or your spouse want to divorce amicably, but need assistance in reaching a final agreement.
A good mediator can help you get the best out of your negotiations. There are many benefits to working with a good mediator. You can reduce attorney fees and costs and move at your own speed. You also have privacy and confidentiality.
“Divorce doesn’t mean the end for a family. It’s a reorganization.” Esther Perel (Belgian relationship therapist, author)
You can get a fair outcome by spending some time prepping for mediation. Before you begin mediation, consider these six steps:
Consider legal coaching
The best legal coach is someone who understands mediation and may be a mediator. But, they don’t recommend a lawyered-up approach. A legal coach is an expert on divorce law and can provide advice and guidance. Your coach will explain mediation, listen to you and your concerns, help you strategize for mediation and prepare you to respond to different scenarios.
It is recommended that mediation be started by meeting with a coach at least once per week. Before finalizing the settlement agreement is signed, your legal coach must review it.
Remember that your mediator cannot play sides. Your mediator cannot take sides. In the example of spousal maintenance payments, failure to include an end date could lead to unintended financial consequences. It is important that the date for the end of support is stated clearly in any agreement. You can also agree that you will revisit the terms of spousal support at a later time if you aren’t ready to do so.
Select your mediator carefully
There are many types and styles of mediators. So how can you decide which one is right for you? There are three main types of mediation: facilitative, transformative, and evaluative.
Facilitative mediators can help you have productive conversations, especially if you are prone to arguments with your spouse. Evaluative mediators are able to explain the legal merits of your requests. This could be for your primary child custody request or for your spouse to sell your marital house. Transformative mediators can be thought of as counselors. They allow you to have a confidential discussion about your issues and work towards finding solutions.
Questions to ask potential mediators when interviewing them
Here are some questions to help you select the right mediator for you.
- What’s your preferred style of mediation?
- Is it possible to meet in the same place as my spouse or travel between two rooms. Are there any sessions that you can hold by Zoom, Skype or phone?
- What is your availability like? How far in advance are you scheduling meetings
- Do you plan to help us prepare, file and process our divorce paperwork, or will we do it ourselves?
- Are you willing to take a retainer and invoice against it, or are you willing to charge a flat fee? If yes, how much? How much do you charge per hour?
- What kind of training or certification programs have you taken in mediation?
Be open-minded and attentive to others
We want mediation to go smoothly. This tip technically refers only to mediation but it’s good to start thinking about it.
Sometimes your spouse might say things that are untrue or hurtful. You can trust that your mediator will not make unreasonable requests. As communication heats, take a deep breathe. Listen carefully and pay attention. Keep calm and don’t interrupt or attack your spouse.
Good listening skills are key to ensuring settlement talks stay on track. You may find it helpful to sympathize with your ex even if they don’t agree. It may turn out that they are more cooperative when they feel they are being heard. You can practice these communication skills before mediation so that they become second nature.
Do not rush.
It can be overwhelming to negotiate a complicated financial contract, or to fight for what is best for your children. At the same time, it can be devastating to end one of the most important relationships in your life. Meditation is the answer. You will need to learn a lot, especially if your financial situation is complicated. There may be anger, sadness, relief, fear and disappointment. It doesn’t matter if your emotions are good or bad.
Give yourself a well-deserved break. This may sound hard considering all of the obligations that life brings, but it is possible. Take a few minutes to meditate. You can also watch a comedy to have fun and make a joke. Be gentle with yourself. You might have lost sight of who you really are. If this is the case, you are most welcome back.
Now is the time to gather your financial data
If you already have your financial records, gather them as soon as possible. It is impossible to go into mediation without a solid understanding of your financial history and what it has been acquired.
You might want to get your money back if you bought a home with your grandmother, for example. You’ll need to “prove” it with documentation or other financial statements. It is common for people to forget facts that could be financially harmful.
The best case scenario is that you and your spouse work together to compile documents. Here is a short list of documents you may need to compile.
- Federal and State Tax Returns
- Pay stubs
- W-2s and/or 1099s
- Partnerships and other business interest valuations
- It’s fine to not have a valuation of your real estate property yet
- Kelley Blue Book value for cars and trucks
- Record of savings, checking, money markets, and CD accounts
- Non-retirement investment statement for stocks, bonds or secured notes and mutual funds
- Executive compensation records include stock options, restricted stock units and other executive comps
- Pension statements and retirement account statements
- Annuities and IRAs as well as deferred compensation records
- Life insurance policies
- Receivable records and Unsecured Notes
- Real estate loans
- Credit card and line-of-credit records
- Evidence of separate property contribution to assets
- Information on health insurance
- Exemplary evidence of the cost of extracurriculars such as camp or other child-related expenses
- Identify your non-negotiables
What can’t you live without? What are you willing and able to sacrifice in order to keep it? It could be your house. Consider your home, which may be your largest asset. Your kids might not want to go to different schools. You might be willing to trade this for something else.