Mediation requires participation from both parties. Don't be caught off guard, and know what you need to have with you.
It's All About Preparation
Like most things in life, spending time on initial prep will usually speed up the process and yield better results; mediation is no different.
At Lauren Smith Legal Services, we pride ourselves on getting you a fair resolution as quickly as possible. This, of course, requires the mediating parties to actively prepare for mediation day.
Before mediation day, we will send out a list of guidelines, procedures, and things to have on hand. It's really important to make sure that you are aware of everything on the list!
Keep reading to learn how to prepare for your upcoming mediation.
Know Your Role
A mediation is comprised of 3 primary parties. First is the mediator. The mediator is tasked with helping the parties negotiate all of the relevant issues, while maintaining neutrality.
A mediator is a 100% neutral 3rd party. They cannot provide legal or financial advice to either party individually.
The mediator should be experienced and certified. Lauren has more than a decade of mediation experience.
The second and third parties constitute the married couple getting divorced. In some cases, but not all, the parties can also hire attorneys. If no attorneys are present, this is called a Pro Se mediation. Both options work, and the structure depends entirely on you!
As one of the mediating parties, your primary role is in negotiating your position to reach a settlement. Negotiating is rooted in one major principle that we discuss next...
Know What You Want (And What You Don't)
In too many cases, one (or both) party shows up without any prior thought to what they actually want in a settlement. This delays the mediation process, and will end up costing you more money. While we as mediators help walk you through everything that needs to be decided (it's a lot!), you should have a general idea of what you need...(but still come to the "table" with an open mind)!
We highlight the following categories that you need to give serious consideration prior to a mediation:
Living Arrangement and Property Distribution: Where will you live after divorce? Do you plan to move? How big of a house will you need, and what can you afford?
Monthly Income: Do you have a job that you plan to keep? Have you been out of work for years in order to care for kids? Do you expect to contribute to your former spouse's income? Are you changing careers? What are your monthly expenses?
Retirement Accounts: What are your savings, and how do you plan to split them? Who contributed to these accounts, and did any of them exist pre-marriage?
Child Custody: Who will care for shared children after the divorce? Do you want to split parenting time 50-50, or do you need another arrangement?
If you have children, you also need to consider the role that each parent will play in making decisions for them. That is generally divided into 4 main categories: Education, Religion, Medical, and Extracurricular
One of the best advantages with mediation is that there are an endless number of outcomes. However, this can present challenges if both parties are not clear on what they ultimately want, and don't want.
If there is an aspect of the settlement that isn't important to you, let it go. Focus on what you need to make your mediation work for you!
Don't Forget Your Important Documents and Information
Mediation is not a test where you can't bring your study materials! It's also not a trial where you are being grilled by an opposing attorney.
Remember, mediation is a walk-through negotiation where parties go back and forth over a number of topics until a settlement is reached. To most effectively do this, you need to have relevant documents available to you at the mediation.
Some of the documents and information that you should bring include:
Checking Account balances
Retirement account balances
Estimate of total monthly expenses before and after divorce
Total debt outstanding (including mortgage balances)
Usernames and passwords for any online account
And anything else you see as relevant!
At Lauren Smith Legal Services, we love conducting online mediations from the comfort of your home or office. This makes accessing your documents fast and easy!
Read (and Know) the Rules
Before any GOOD mediation, you will be presented a list of "rules" of which to agree. These rules simply outline the procedure of the mediation, so that both parties understand what is expected of them (and the mediator).
Here are a few rules/guidelines we use in our mediations:
Nothing is mandatory in the mediation process.
A settlement is not required
Mediation can be terminated at any time by the mediator, the attorneys or the parties.
The mediator does not offer legal or financial advice and is not functioning as an attorney or financial advisor.
We send out the list of guidelines to each party prior to the mediation. It is part of your job to read the rules and acknowledge them.
Bring A Win-Win Mindset.
Potentially the worst thing you can do in a mediation is show up with the expectation of failing. Mediations do not require the parties to see eye-to-eye on every aspect of the divorce. What they do require is mutual respect and a desire to reach an appropriate settlement quickly and efficiently.
If you show up prepared to fail, you will likely get what you expected.
We believe that mediated divorces can offer certain advantages over long, drawn-out trials. However, to be successful the parties need to arrive at their mediation prepared and ready to settle the case equitably.