An increasing number of family law cases are resulting in settlements. Whether it is a divorce, child custody, or simple child support matter, mediation helps put a degree of control over a case back in the hands of the parties. Mediation allows parties to carefully consider the issues in their particular case and be creative with solutions that best fit their needs and their family, sometimes agreeing to arrangements that a court would not have authority to order after a trial. The process is an important and often necessary step before proceeding to a final hearing, and can help parties avoid the need for a trial, which helps cut down on expenses and conflict. It is important to make sure that you are adequately prepared for mediation in order to maximize your chances of reaching a settlement agreement.
Before mediation, you need to sit down and give careful and long thought to your goals. In what areas are you flexible, and in what other areas do you have no room for compromise. Try to remember that the point of mediation, just as in the overall divorce or custody proceeding, is not to “win.” Rather, it is to reach a mutually agreeable settlement. Prioritize your goals and discuss them with your attorney so you can know how realistic these goals are, as well as what a likely outcome would be if you took the issue to trial. This can help you know in what areas you should be prepared to compromise.
You will also want to bring particular documentation. These documents will be what is necessary to create a full and final agreement, such as proof of income, bank statements, house appraisals, or retirement account statements. Without proper documentation of the amount and location of assets and debts, it will not be possible to craft an accurate and precise mediated agreement. It is necessary for the parties to have a complete understanding of the marital estate before they can reach a settlement on how the estate should be divided.
Finally, be prepared to be creative. Although you may have received information on how “most” cases end, or how many parenting schedules are drafted, remember that your own family and your own case is not “most” cases. One of the largest benefits of mediation is to allow the parties to come up with their own answers. The more control the parties have, typically the less time they will spend returning to court in later years to change their order. Keep an open mind to the creative solutions of the other party, and try to understand that this could be a path to an amicable solution.
Mediation can be a great solution for many couples, but you will need the help of an attorney to get you through the process. We have helped many clients successfully mediate their cases. Call us today at (732) 529-6937 to talk about mediation and how it can help you with your family law issues.