Preparing for Mediation
There are lots of things
you can do before your first session with the mediator to minimize the
time (and money) you spend in mediation.
the Mediation Process
If you haven't already
done so, you may want to check out the page on divorce
mediation so you know what to expect. You need to know, for example,
that mediation and arbitration
are not the same thing. You need to know that your mediator won't have
any power to impose a settlement on either of you. The actual resolution
would be up to the two of you.
You need to know
that, in mediation, the focus is not on the mediator, or on your lawyers,
but on the two of you. You're in control.
You get to decide whether you're going to reach an agreement.
and Organize Financial Information
Itís possible to begin
the mediation sessions without bringing in any information, and in fact,
most people begin this way. You will save time and money, however, if you
begin assembling this information now:
information on all assets and liabilities. For
example, if there is a house, even if there is
no intent to sell it, you will need to agree on a fair market value for the
house, so you should gather whatever information will be helpful to you
in understanding that (appraisals, sales of similar homes in your
You should also know in whose name you own the house as well as the balance
of all outstanding mortgages, any home equity lines of credit, and any
outstanding liens attached to the house.
Gains on the sale of your home are probably not an issue, as the result
of the recent changes in the tax code. But for other real estate, you need
to know several pieces of information,
including the purchase price and the value today. If the real estate is
depreciable, find out the value to which it has been depreciated.
in your checking and savings accounts, stocks, mutual funds,
plans, as well as amounts owed on any outstanding loans. You also need
to know for each qualified retirement plan
how much of it will be taxable when you eventually pull out the money and
start spending it. You need to know your basis in any stocks, which your
broker or accountant can probably provide for you.
value of all vehicles. You can use the Blue
Book (which is actually a yellow book with blue writing), available at
most banks, credit unions, and libraries. Youíll also need to know the
balance owed on any loans related to the vehicles. In addition to cars,
youíll also need this information on any other vehicles, such as boats,
trailers, and recreational vehicles.
most recent three years of 1040 tax returns, both state and federal, together
with all their attachments, including W-2ís. Also, you should take a recent
typical pay stub showing current pay and deductions.
either of you owns an interest in a business,
it will take some special attention in mediation.
Make sure you tell your mediator about it early on.
about other assets, including cash value life insurance, expected tax refunds,
claims, frequent flyer miles, vacation timeshares, etc.
- Information about your debts,
including the balance owed, which of you is legally liable for the debt,
the interest rate, and the minimum monthly payment.
should go ahead and start thinking through your budget
now. If both of you are prepared with an accurate line-by-line estimate
of your monthly expenses, you will save time
and money in mediation.
encourage you to take to mediation three copies (one for the mediator and
one for each of you) of all relevant
documents, except that in the case of the 1040 and other documents that
are lengthy and only partially relevant, one copy will probably be enough.
Through As Much Crud as Possible
I tell my clients that
my office is the best place to fight, and it
is. Your mediator is a professional and well able to keep the sessions
on task, and your children are far, far away.
That having been said, however, the more you and your spouse have already
worked through your emotional
divorce, the more efficiently you will use your time in mediation,
and the more likely you will reach a mutually satisfactory resolution of
your divorce issues.
We know from statistical research that the most effective
mediators concentrate not on reconciling positions but on the goals of the
parties. Lawyers love proposals. They love to formulate proposals, deliver
proposals, counter-propose proposals, and reject proposals.
Proposals are a frustratingly cumbersome way to get to a
resolution. My experience is that a proposal from either party immediately
pushes both parties into positional defense. It's not pretty.
Rather than taking
your proposal to mediation, I'd like to see you take a good clear understanding
of your goals. If you trust the mediation process, the process itself will
help both of you find a way to accomplish as many of your goals as possible.
You can work out the specific provisions in the mediation sessions themselves.