Divorce can be lengthy, expensive, and frustrating. Divorce mediation is an alternative to going to court that can save your sanity during a difficult time. This process gives you the chance to negotiate the terms of your divorce with your spouse.
If you and your spouse want to avoid going to court and spending money on divorce attorneys, mediation may be for you.
Here’s a checklist to keep in mind as you go through the mediation process.
Choose a Mediator
Before you delve into the process of mediation, take the time to research a variety of mediators.
Look for mediators who will be transparent about the legal half of things. Knowledge about the legal proceedings and how they apply to your specific marriage will help you make good decisions about how to move forward.
Another quality to look for is affordability. Paying a flat fee with a mediator will help you save money because hourly fees add up quickly and may cause you to rush into a decision instead of giving it the consideration it needs.
Finally, look for a mediator who is able to actually process your divorce. Not all mediators have the knowledge and legal training to file paperwork, so find a mediator or company with the legal knowledge to take you through the entire divorce process.
Things to Bring to Your First Meeting
Most mediators will ask you to bring some documents to the first session to get the ball rolling quickly.
This list should include important legal documents, financial statements, and more. Here’s a list of some of the items you may be asked to bring:
- Contact information for your bank, work, and more
- Your calendar
- Court documents
- List of assets and property
- Financial statements
- A list of topics to discuss
All of these will help you get started making a list of issues to discuss, and it’ll give your mediator important information to help him or her guide your discussion and eventual negotiation.
Topics of Discussion in Mediation
It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the most common topics that come up in mediation. Your mediator might give you some suggestions to prepare for, and you can bring up topics yourself if any are especially important to you. Your spouse will likely bring up some of these topics, too.
When you discuss these topics, your mediator will also be making notes on each person’s goals for this process. Ideally, mediation will allow you to meet as many of your goals as possible.
It might not be possible for both you and your spouse to get everything you want out of this settlement, and that’s where negotiation comes in.
Division of Assets and Debt
Before attending your first mediation meeting, your mediator will likely ask you to complete a thorough look at your finances. During mediation, you’ll be discussing the property each person owns and determining what is jointly owned.
A mediator can help you find the fairest, most logical way to divide your assets. The exact division will vary from couple to couple, according to their unique financial situations. When it comes to this topic, a neutral mediator is a great asset for helping you come to a final decision.
Child Custody and Support
If you have children, this is probably one of the most important, and contentious, issues that will come up during mediation sessions. This is an issue that can get quite complex, with several factors affecting it.
Each parent’s living situation, for example, can affect the logistics of getting or sharing custody. If the children are old enough, their own preferences for custody and visitation might be taken into account.
If one parent will be paying child support, your mediator will help you refer to the state’s guidelines for determining the amount that should be paid.
After a divorce, your insurance policies will likely change quite a bit. You’ll need to discuss who owns which insurance policies, and how to transfer them.
Hashing out the details of insurance coverage is important because both parties will want to make sure they maintain important policies to cover things like their health and auto services.
Retirement accounts can be a significant asset, so dividing them often gets complicated. Both parties must report all of their retirement accounts, so the mediator can help them determine a reasonable agreement.
Terms of Communication
Even after the divorce is finalized, there might be situations where you have to interact with your spouse.
It’s a good idea to plan out future methods of communication, and the possible reasons you’ll have to communicate. If you plan to co-parent, for example, you’ll be in contact on a regular basis.
In other situations, you might only need to get in touch for legal reasons or to revisit your agreements. It’s good to have a plan of action for that eventuality.
After your mediator has collected all the necessary information from you and your spouse, and determined each person’s goals for the settlement, you’ll move on to negotiation.
Both you and your spouse will have an ideal outcome in mind, and here is where you’ll be discussing each person’s needs and desires. Mediation is focused on meeting each person’s most urgent needs, and compromise will be required to meet those.
During negotiation, the mediator will help lay out several possible outcomes. You and your spouse will give your opinion on each outcome, and focus on the ones that work best for each person.
After some serious discussion, negotiation, and compromise, you’ll be ready to draft your settlement and put it down in writing. You and your spouse will both need to sign this document.
If your mediator is an attorney, he or she can create the final version of your agreement in the form of a memorandum of understanding. This final version will be filed alongside the rest of your divorce paperwork, showing that you have a legal agreement with your spouse.
Our divorce mediation Anaheim services are covered by one flat rate, and we’re happy to help couples negotiate and discuss a wide range of issues. We’ll help you finalize your divorce without going to court.
Contact us at Divorce Mediation of California today.