Once a couple has decided to get divorced (as difficult as it may be), it’s time to start putting together a detailed plan on how everyone will move forward – from parenting schedules to making decisions about finances and communication. Being completely prepared for your first meeting is the best way to reduce stress, anxiety, and conflict before you begin. Here are a few ways for you and your spouse to prepare for divorce mediation.
1. Research the mediation process
It always helps to know what you’re getting into! Be sure you’re familiar with all types of mediation, what exactly happens during the process, and if it’s the right decision for you and your family. Also be aware that during mediation, the focus is on you and your spouse – unlike the legal process, you are in control of your own decision-making.
Go over the pros and cons of mediation versus litigation with your spouse, and make sure you both are fully on board with the process before you begin.
2. Do your paperwork
Before your first mediation meeting, it’s a good idea to create a master list of all your assets and possessions to ensure you cover everything. The list should include all real property (i.e. multiple houses), personal property, vehicles, bank accounts, credit cards, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, annuities, stocks, etc. You will need to account for absolutely everything you own for it to be dealt with in mediation.
You will also want to gather records for all of your income sources: paystubs, pension disbursements, social security, etc. Make a list of recurring monthly expenses and ongoing liabilities, so that all of your incidentals are taken into consideration.
3. Voice your concerns
If you have specific concerns, write them down before your first meeting. Ask to meet with the mediator individually either before or after the session and communicate those concerns; it will be fully confidential and none of what you discuss will be reported to the other party. A few minutes of private discussion with your mediator every so often can be incredibly beneficial for both parties.
4. Set realistic goals
Just like in traditional negotiations, both parties need to figure out their range of acceptable terms; from everything you hope to get and what you absolutely will not be satisfied without. In between those two extremes are several variables that can shift and will be decided upon during negotiations. Decide on your bottom-line goals before your first meeting.
If you have children, make sure you keep the parental custody decisions separate from the financial decisions.
5. Prepare mentally and emotionally to negotiate – not argue
Divorce mediation is first and foremost about negotiation. Since it’s a process that seeks to alleviate the adversarial aspects of going through the legal system, it’s crucial both parties remain as respectful as possible.
An agreement will only be reached if emotions are kept in check, and it’s easier to make the best decision for your family with a clear head. The more you and your spouse have worked through the emotions of your divorce before mediation, the more efficiently you’ll both use your time and the more likely you’ll reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
If you have questions about divorce mediation or think mediation may be the right path for you, give our team at San Diego Divorce Mediation & Family Law a call at (858) 255-1321.