While litigation can be time-consuming, expensive, and stressful, mediation is a confidential process in which both parties agree on different aspects of their divorce with the help of a mediator.
Preparing for Mediation
Understand the Role of a Mediator
A mediator is an unbiased third party whose job is to help you and your spouse resolve issues within your divorce (asset division, child custody, child support, alimony, etc.). Mediators don’t make decisions or offer legal advice. Their job is to act as a facilitator who helps spouses determine what is in each of their best interests.
Know the Benefits of Mediation
Choosing mediation comes with a number of benefits, including:
- Cost. On average, mediation tends to be far more cost-efficient than litigation.
- Privacy. Unlike litigation, which often takes place in open court, mediation is confidential and won’t be public record.
- Time. Divorces that go to court end up taking far longer to resolve than divorces that are settled through mediation.
- Emotional freedom. Mediation encourages positive communication designed to help spouses come to a mutual agreement.
- More control. If your divorce goes to court, a judge will have full discretion over the matter at hand. But through mediation, you’re able to have much more control over the outcome.
What to do Before Coming to Mediation
Prepare yourself emotionally.
The end of a marriage is never easy and it’s natural to feel upset or angry. However, it’s important to remember that the goal of mediation is to find positive solutions to your problems, not dredge up past arguments, place blame, or try to “win.” A negative attitude will only prolong the process and exacerbate any existing problems you both have.
Keep your children’s best interests in mind.
If you have children, keep them at the forefront of your decision-making. Because divorce can also have a profound impact on their life, come to agreements that benefit them as well as each other. If you’re concerned about how the divorce will impact your children’s lives, parent education programs can help you learn tips for effectively communicating with your children.
Gather important information and documents.
In order to save time, money, and emotional stress, it’s vital that both parties come to mediation well-prepared. Before your first meeting, your mediator will give you a list of paperwork to bring with you. Among other things, this list will likely include:
- Each of your most recent pay stubs;
- Past W2s and/or 1099s;
- A certified copy of your marriage certificate;
- A list of your assets and debts;
- Bank statements;
- Any previous legal documents or court filings.
Plan for your future.
Remember that the divorce process won’t last forever. While it can be stressful at times, you don’t want to focus too much on the divorce itself and forget about how your life will be affected afterward. When discussing possible outcomes, remember to think about where you’ll live, what car you’ll drive, and how your children will be supported (among many other matters).
Set money aside for unexpected expenses.
Before coming to mediation, you should set aside some money for expenses you didn’t consider. For example, if you’re on your spouse’s medical insurance plan, you may need to buy your own once the divorce is finalized. New childcare expenses can also have an impact on your finances.
Contact a lawyer.
Because mediators are unbiased, they won’t favor one party. Even if you and your spouse are on good terms, having an attorney in your corner can help you understand your rights.