How to Prepare for Mediation

In my divorce mediation practice, the first session is more than introductory.  After a discussion about how the process works and the expectations of clients and mediator of each other, and after an Agreement to Mediate is completed, we begin to delve into the issues at hand.  Participants often ask when making the appointment what they can do to prepare so that they make the best use of the sessions.  These actions are in no way mandatory but can be helpful if you want a jump start.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts:

DO

1.     Pull together receipts, Quicken files, bank statement, credit card statements, and other documents that help you determine what you spend money on.

2.     Pull together wage stubs that show your gross and net income.

3.     Pull together investment and retirement documents and find out what types of plans they are and their value, if it is stated.

4.     If you are probably going to move, begin to consider places you might live and find out what the monthly costs of your new rent and utilities or mortgage could be.

5.     If you have children, think about and/or talk about the logistics of their activity, school  and day care schedule.

6.     Think about and/or talk about what will help them feel as secure and comfortable as possible with the changes coming up.

7.     Think about how to provide your children with emotional support during the transition, considering timing and their unique personalities.

8.     Fill out the forms provided by the mediator completely and get them back to the mediator two business days prior to the first session.

9.     Learn about your legal rights and divorce law in Maryland.

DON’T

1.      Make rash decisions or promises to the other person about pensions, support, or other money issues.  Wait until you have looked at the whole picture objectively with the mediator so that you are not tied to an impulsive choice influenced by guilt, anger, or other emotions.

2.     Assume that every decision must go your way because you are the victim in this divorce. 

3.     Assume that a deficit budget will somehow work out; start thinking about how to make the separation affordable. 

4.     Expect that your standard of living will be exactly as it has been.  Even if you are the injured party, it’s usually not possible to maintain your same life style if you add a couple thousand dollars of monthly expense (additional residence, separate food, health insurance, etc.) and income remains the same.  It may truly be unfair but it is also the reality.

5.     Put a lawyer on retainer to litigate your divorce.  The further you go on that pathway the more hostility is engendered, the more each of your positions solidify, and it is harder to go back and mediate.  Hire a lawyer for consultation and advice instead.