Once you and your spouse have decided on mediation, it’s time to prepare for the next step: document gathering and information sharing. Successful mediation requires honesty and compliance from both spouses, as it’s necessary that they both divulge complete (and true) information on all of their forms. There may be a lot of data, particularly when both parties have numerous assets and individual debts or loans, and most couples agree that collecting all of it is one of the most arduous parts of divorce mediation.
That paperwork, however, is also one of the most important elements of mediation – with all of the proper documents in order, it’s easier to identify the needs of both parties, allowing for a clearer path towards an agreeable settlement. With the help of that and the right mediator, both spouses will be able to reconcile their differences and reach common ground. Your hard work will pay off in the long run!
The necessary documents can be grouped into five main categories.
- Assets. This is the largest chunk of data and generally includes all the basics: biographical information about both spouses such as name, date of birth, marriage date, annual income, employment status, contact number, and address. It also includes bank statements, statement of the children’s accounts (CD’s, 529 plans, college fund etc.), stock investment details, vehicle details, pending lawsuits (when either or both spouse is listed as plaintiff), settlements of loans, pension plans, other cash benefit plans, personal property appraisal and approximate value of the contents of all homes owned, and business appraisal (if there are any joint business ventures).
- Liabilities. The balance statements for all mortgages, home equity loans, or lines of credit held against any personal property, motor vehicle loan statements, current balance statements for any student loans, statements for other private loans – written or verbal when either or both spouses are debtor(s) – all credit card statements, and information on any pending civil lawsuit when either spouse is a defendant.
- Income & Taxes. Statement of income (pay stubs) and any corresponding W-2 or 1099 employment statement from the last six months, copies of federal and state tax returns for the last three years and supporting W-2 and 1099 forms, and copies of corporate tax returns from the last three years if the couple runs a joint business or individually.
- Insurance. Declaration sheets for all life insurance policies held by either or both spouses, and a written statement of the cash surrender value of any universal life insurance plans; and a declaration sheet for all disability polices held by either or both spouses.
- Miscellaneous Marital Documents. Items like a copy of the marriage certificate, copies of any trust documents, all pre-marital or marital agreements in effect (such as pre- or post-nuptial agreements), and any wills executed during the marriage.
This may seem like a pretty daunting task, so if you and your spouse are on good terms, working together may be the most time-efficient way to accomplish everything. If one spouse doubts the accuracy or validity of the other’s information or documents, it can be addressed at the first mediation session. The mediator will be able to handle the concern in a non-confrontational way and allow for both parties to communicate their point of view.
Our firm is committed to helping you get through this process. Give us a call today to schedule your first mediation session: (858) 255-1321.