Did you make a New Year’s resolution this year to finally move ahead with your divorce? Sometimes couples decide to separate but then find themselves stymied about exactly how to proceed. Even after a New Year’s resolution, daily life has a way of intervening. If you are stuck wondering how to begin the divorce process, consider beginning with mediation. Here are a few steps to help you move ahead:
Get Ready: Decide whether or not you are good candidates for mediation.
All types of divorcing couples, from those with few assets and few issues to those with a high net worth and multiple complex problems, can successfully use mediation to minimize the stress and cost of divorce. The process provides greater personal control and increased privacy. These three questions can help you decide if mediation is right for you:
Are both of you willing to work together to resolve your disputes?
It’s the willingness that is key here. Even spouses who aren’t on particularly good terms with one another can benefit from mediation if they share the goals of collaboration and compromise. A skilled mediator can help you overcome any communication obstacles.
Are both of you interested in win-win solutions, rather than a win-lose outcome?
For those with the right mind-set, mediation can maximize positive results for both parties. If one or both of you is harboring a lot of anger, you may need to do some work with a therapist first to ensure that bitterness or a desire for revenge does not get in the way of the best possible outcome.
Is your marital history free of domestic violence or abuse?
If one spouse feels intimidated by the other, divorce mediation is less likely to be effective. If any restraining orders are in effect, face-to-face negotiations will not be possible. Couples who are not embroiled in an abusive dynamic, however, are likely to benefit from mediation. If you are not sure which category you fall into, don’t automatically assume that mediation is not be an option. Sometimes the solution is to substitute a more structured process. A family law attorney can help you assess your situation.
Get Set: Agree on the Process and Choose a Mediator
If you and your spouse are in agreement that divorce mediation is the right approach, then you can move on to selecting a mutually agreeable mediator. If, however, your spouse is less than enthusiastic, don’t give up yet. It’s possible that after receiving additional information and reassurances, they will reconsider. There’s a multitude of information available on the internet, so beware of overwhelming a resistant spouse with too much. Try to hone in on the features that people really need to understand in order to make an informed choice:
Purpose: Many people misunderstand the purpose of divorce mediation. Some think it is like marriage counseling, which strives to bring people back together. Others think it is like arbitration, which requires turning over decision-making to someone else. Mediation is neither of these things; it is for couples who have decided to divorce, but would prefer to resolve their issues out of court with the help of a neutral third party.
Process: The primary thing to understand about the mediation process is how it differs from litigation. Make sure your spouse understands that mediation is less contentious and more flexible than litigation, is often speedier, and can result in significant financial savings. Many participants appreciate the fact that unlike litigation, mediation preserves confidentiality. If you have children, you can point out the potentially enormous benefits to them of reducing conflict and preserving privacy.
If your spouse is still hesitant after you have made these points, ask if they would at least consider meeting with a mediator to get more information.
Go: Prepare your Checklist
If you have agreed on the process and selected a mediator together, then it’s time to work on your checklist. Your mediator will provide you with more specifics, but you can save time by being ready to go right from the outset. You will need to collect:
- Basic financial information, including recent W-2s, tax returns for the past 3 years, and complete financial Information about any businesses either or both of you own or operate;
- Information about your employment status and history, particularly if either of you is unemployed or underemployed;
- A detailed monthly budget of living expenses;
- Information about coverage and cost of insurance (medical, life, auto, and other);
- Copies of any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements you may have;
- Evidence of any child support or alimony payments from previous marriages;
- A complete list of your assets and debts, including dates of acquisition, form of title, and source of funds;
- Information about any children you have together, including ages, schedules, any special needs, and any disputes between the two of you regarding custody or parenting time;
- Documentation of any special issues, such as medical conditions or special financial circumstances.
For a more detailed look at what you will need, see: How to Prepare for Mediation – a Checklist.
Now you are ready to begin. Keep in mind though that mediation requires patience. Stay focused on the process and committed to the idea that this year will be the beginning of your new life.
Whether you are ready to schedule your first mediation session or are still exploring the process, the experienced and compassionate mediators at Weinberger Mediation Center can help. Contact us today for an initial consultation.