You and your spouse have decided to mediate. Great! That means you both believe that you can work together (with help) to enter into an agreement that will best resolve your differences.
It does not mean everything will be perfect. Nor does it mean someone will give up everything just to get it done. Instead, you will both have to decide what you are willing to accept and what you will give up to achieve your goals.
Parties who prepare for mediation find that they can navigate through the process better than those who do not. In preparing before the first meeting, you can reduce your costs and improve the chances of mediation ending in a positive result. Here are five things to do before meeting with the mediator.
Be Prepared to Listen
There is an old saying: “you have two ears and one mouth, use them each proportionally.” In mediation, each party should be prepared to not only talk about his or her own goals, but also be ready to listen to the goals and interests of the other party. It is important to focus on what is the issue at hand and how you each feel about it instead of focusing on your feelings about your spouse. Listening is a key part of successful mediation.
Define Your Goals
Sometimes couples come to mediation unsure of what they want. It is understandable. The divorce may still be fresh. This may be the first time you talked about what you want your life to look like when it is all over. However, it makes it difficult to negotiate big decisions like what to do with the house, custody and parenting time, and support without knowing what you want.
Before your first meeting, sit down and write out what is important to you. Is it that you live close to one another so you can successfully co-parent? Do you want to stay in the house and if so, can you afford to do so? While you may not have all the answers as to how to achieve your goals, you can at least start thinking about what would be required to achieve those goals.
Start Collecting Documents
You will probably need to bring in tax returns, recent paystubs, deeds, insurance information, etc. If the mediator is asking that you bring these items in his or her office, make sure to bring them. Failing to have this information can make it harder to negotiate and can lead to you and your spouse wasting time.
Get Ready to Work
Mediation works when both sides are prepared to actually do some work. It is not a process where you both sit back and allow someone else to make the decisions for you. If that is what you want, then you may as well stick with litigation(court). Be prepared to present your reasons as to why you feel the way you do about certain assets, your children or support and to defend your positions. You know what you want out of the divorce, and this is your opportunity to work towards your goals.
When spouses come to the table with unrealistic expectations, it can make mediation difficult to impossible. Just because you are in a process where you and your spouse make your own decisions does not mean that you will get everything and your spouse will get nothing. Believing you are entitled to all the assets or full custody of the children because you feel wronged is not going to help you move forward. You should consider to speak with a lawyer before mediation to discuss what is an equitable and reasonable outcome. This will help you to strategize as to what you may be willing to give up in order to reach a favorable agreement.
When couples come to mediation prepared to work, with reasonable expectations and with the understanding that the other side has a position too the process can often end with a successful outcome.