In our last few posts, we reviewed some ways to assess the suitability of mediation for your own divorce. We also looked at how to gauge your readiness to begin the process. Last month we talked about choosing mediators and consulting attorneys. If you have gotten this far, and you now have a mediator and a consulting attorney you are happy with, you are probably thinking you are ready for mediation. Before you schedule your first session though, there are still a few more things to take care of.
Make a List of the Issues in Your Case
Taking some time to understand your issues is an important part of getting ready for mediation. Issues in divorce generally fall into one of a few major categories. These include property distribution, spousal or child support, and child custody or other parenting issues. In listing your own issues, you can start with these categories and create any necessary subcategories. Once you have a list, take some time to think about how much disagreement you expect to have with your spouse on each item. For example, if you own a home, will you agree on who should continue to live there? Will you agree on whether or not you should sell the home? If you have a business, is it clear which spouse the business should stay with? Will you need an evaluation of its value? If you have children, will you agree about parenting arrangements?
These are just a few examples. The number of issues you identify and the amount of disagreement you anticipate will give you a good idea of whether or not you are really ready for mediation, and of how complicated your process could be.
Collect your Documents
Once you have a general idea of your issues, you are ready to move on to collecting information and documents. The documents you need will to some extent depend on your issues, but there are certain things that virtually everyone needs. The broad categories of information and documents you may require include the following:
- Information about employment and documentation of income, such as w-2’s and tax returns.
- Documentation of monthly expenses, including mortgage or rent payments, utility payments, and any other regular monthly expenses.
- Any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements you may have.
- Any court orders for child or spousal support affecting either you or your spouse.
- Complete information about all of your assets, such as real estate, businesses, savings, investments, and retirement accounts.
- Complete information about all of your debts, such as mortgages, auto loans, student loans and credit card debt.
- Information about any children you have together, including their school and extracurricular schedules, expenses for activities, and any special needs.
It is okay to estimate somewhat at this point, but the sooner you can collect complete and accurate information, the more efficient your mediation process will be. Having accurate information up front will also allow you to get the best possible service from the professionals who will be assisting you. For a more complete list of information you may need, see: How to Begin Mediation – A Checklist.
After you have collected your documents, go back and review your list of issues once more. You may find that you now have more categories.
Meet with Your Consulting Attorney
Once you have a pretty good idea of what you will need to cover in your mediation sessions, and you have wrapped your arms around the kind of information you will need, you are ready to move forward.
There is still one more step you should take though before scheduling your first mediation session. Meet with your consulting attorney. Your attorney can go over the information you have collected and give you a good idea of how strong your legal position is on each issue and what kind of settlement agreement you should be thinking about.
Before your meeting, give some thought to what is most important to you. No one comes out of a divorce with everything they want, so having a sense of what you might or might not be willing to give up in exchange for something else is important. Your attorney can then help you develop a realistic mediation strategy. Once you have completed this step, you are finally ready for mediation. In our next post, we will review the mediation process.
Are you ready to start mediation now? Give us a call and schedule an initial consultation today.