HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF DIVORCE MEDIATION
The most popular method of Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) is mediation, which involves settling your divorce issues with the help of a qualified neutral third party known as a mediator. A mediator does not represent either spouse and may or may not be an attorney. A mediator does not advise you on the law but helps you come to an agreement that works for both parties. A mediator won’t make the final decisions for you. Instead, a mediator will skillfully help you and your spouse identify your issues and make informed decisions. You can hire an attorney to attend mediation with you or, more commonly, attend mediation without a lawyer and then bring the agreement to a lawyer to review. At Netsquire we have attorneys who can fill the role of mediator or review your agreement and advise you if you have already engaged in mediation elsewhere.
At Netsquire, we offer packages specifically designed to help facilitate a settlement in the least amount of time and cost to the parties. We offer an initial package of mediation time in 3-hour blocks of time. Depending on the particulars, it may take you less than 3 hours to reach an agreement or it may take you more than 3 hours. For most people, 3 hours tends to be the amount of time they are productive at one time. Once you decide mediation is right for you, how do you make the most of your time with the mediator? Keep reading.
- Know your finances. When you attend your first mediation session, come with a list of all income, assets and debts that presently exist, whether in your name or your spouse’s name or held jointly. Income is important since it will relate to any potential spousal support and child support issues. Bring your most recent tax returns and pay-stubs. Assets might include bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, real estate or significant personal property. For most assets, it is helpful to bring a recent statement. The value of each asset does not have to be exact, as many assets such as stocks fluctuate, but it should be pretty close. Liabilities might include credit card debt, student loan debt, past due income taxes, a mortgage or home equity loan, car loans, etc.
- Know what’s important to you. You may not know exactly what a settlement should look like. Otherwise, you wouldn’t need us, right? But you should know what issues are most important for you. For example, maybe it’s staying in the marital home, if possible, until the kids graduate from high school. Or maybe it’s being permitted to relocate to another school district or have sufficient money to keep paying for private school. Whatever it is, and it’s different for every family, come to the table able to express to the mediator what is most important to you so he or she can be sure to focus on that in the discussion and potentially work around that.
- Be willing to make reasonable compromises. It is important both parties understand that divorce is never about “winning.” There is no winner in a divorce. The focus is on helping the parties reach an agreement that works for both and the family as you move into a new life. If you come prepared knowing what’s most important to you as suggested in #2 above, you can better determine other places where you can compromise. You should have a “need” list and a “want” list. This will maximize the likelihood that you can craft an agreement that meets your needs moving forward.
Remember, the mediator is there to assist you, not make decisions for you. However, the more information available to the mediator, the more he or she will be able to help you reach a settlement. At Netsquire, we pride ourselves on being thorough so that your settlement encompasses all aspects of your life. For more information about divorce mediation contact Netsquire or schedule a ClientVision Meeting