You’ve hired your mediator and the first appointment is set. The next step? Getting prepared. Your New Jersey family law mediator will request you bring specific financial and personal documents to your first divorce mediation session. Besides gathering this information, you can also take steps on your own to prepare. Here are three tips for how to feel organized and ready for this first meeting with your mediator.
Get a Sense of Your Starting Point
In New Jersey, the divorce mediation process centers around the idea of negotiation and the willingness on each side to give and take to achieve a workable solution for all. This is an important part of what makes the mediation process so successful in helping couples quickly reach settlements. However, it also means that you really need to have a thorough understanding of your finances and assets in order to best understand what it is you have to give and your priorities for what you wish to keep.
One easy way to do this is to create a master list of all your assets and possessions — regardless of whether an item is thought to be yours or your spouse’s. The master list should include items such as all real property (house, rental properties, vacation homes), personal property (furniture, artwork, jewelry, etc.), vehicles (including boats, motorcycles, ATVs), bank accounts (joint and separate, checking, savings), credit cards, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, annuities, stocks and other financial products. When in doubt, add it to the list.
You’ll also want to gather records for all income sources: pay stubs, self-employment profit and loss statements, pension disbursements, social security, alimony and child support payments received. As for expenses, list your recurring expenses as well as ongoing liabilities, so that all mortgage payments, car loans, health insurance costs, food, utilities, student loans, credit card payments, etc. are known.
Set Preliminary Goals
Once you know what you have, the next step is to figure out what you want to do with it. Don’t worry if you don’t have this all decided before your first mediation session, but do start going through your list and make notes on what is a priority for you to keep, and what you wouldn’t mind giving up.
Also consider how certain assets could be used as bargaining chips in negotiations. Just like in traditional negotiations, you’ll need to figure out your range of acceptable terms—from everything you hope to get and the things you absolutely will not walk away without. In between those two extremes are variables that can shift during the negotiations. Decide on your bottom-line goals.
Take Care of Your Emotions
Divorce Mediation in New Jersey is designed to be an amicable process, meaning that both parties work through their differences to achieve mutually acceptable solutions. Unlike a judge, a mediator never decides who gets what — this will be up to both parties to agree upon; a mediator’s job is to provide information, facilitate negotiations, and maintain a forward-focused environment.
With that said, if you still feel intense rage, anger, or bitterness towards your spouse, it may be extremely difficult for you to work together. This can derail the mediation process. If you need to, take time now to work on your emotional state before your mediation sessions begin, whether this means seeing a therapist, hitting the gym more often, or reading a self-help book to get you back on track. Besides helping mediation go more smoothly, focusing on self-care can help put you in the right frame of mind for starting your new life post-divorce.
What questions do you have about preparing for New Jersey divorce and family law mediation?