Preparing for Mediation
There are so many issues that a divorcing couple must face–how to tell the children, where will each live, whether or not they can afford to live separately–starting mediation can easily add to the apprehension.
I believe, however, that beginning mediation can actually be a positive step toward gaining control of your changing circumstances. The two of you set the timetable, the agenda and, of course, the outcome.
There are concrete issues that need to be addressed, and as each is discussed and resolved, parties can feel that they are one step closer to moving onto the next stage of their lives. I provide my clients with a checklist of issues which need to be addressed by them in a Separation Agreement, and to the extent that their discussing them on their own is helpful, then by all means I encourage them to do so. For example, most couples will discuss their ideas on a parenting plan before they begin mediation.
In terms of financial issues, I suggest that clients each begin thinking in terms of a budget for their likely future circumstances. Will they be living in a rental, staying in the house or buying a new home? Parties to a mediation should have an idea of what those costs will be so they can properly draft a budget.
It is also helpful to get the financial documents required to have a meaningful discussion on the financial aspect of your divorce in place before beginning the mediation, such as income tax returns, current pay stubs, bank and investment account statements, retirement account statements and the like. The more prepared a couple is for the mediation, the less time and money will be spent in the mediation estimating income and assets.
Like many of my colleagues, I use a financial software program which permits clients to download a client version of the program at no cost. I ask clients to enter their financial information in the program and then send it to me. I can then print out their budgets and lists of assets and liabilities. They can then make changes and revise their budgets as necessary.
Because cost is always a factor for couples facing divorce, the mediation will be more efficient if all of the information is available at the time that you are having your discussions, so it makes sense to be prepared.