Mediation. It can save a couple getting a divorce time, money, and also reduce a significant amount of stress. But not all settlements that come from mediation are successful.
So what is the secret to success in mediation?
At the law firm of Stephen L. Cawelti, we have helped hundreds of individuals reach successful settlements through mediation. Below we list our top five tips on how to ensure that you walk into mediation fully prepared and ready to advocate for your rights.
1. Mentally Prepare Yourself to Negotiate, Not Argue.
In order for a divorce to be as painless as possible, each party needs to set aside who’s “right” and “wrong” and focus on the cost-benefit analysis of the agreement. If both parties more or less respect each other (even if they don’t trust each other), then even the most complex asset and support case can be worked out in a cost-effective manner.
Time spent with your mediator and attorney is money out of your pocket. Keep your emotions in check and don’t waste your money venting your qualms about the other individual.
2. Select the Right Attorney to Advise You
Don’t be afraid to speak to several divorce attorneys in your area to get a feel for their approaches to handling family law cases. If you are committed to making your divorce as pain free as possible, avoid the overly aggressive “pit bull” lawyers. These lawyers can take your case off the rails, set the wrong tone in negotiations, interfere with your settlement, make you look bad in front of the judge, and drive up legal fees. Pit Bull lawyers often drag the divorce process on and make everyone very uncomfortable.
Successful settlements are built on a rigorous and intelligent cost-benefit analysis. If you want your divorce to be as painless as possible, find an attorney that is committed to helping you keep your divorce civil while also protecting your rights and interests.
3. Create a Master List of Assets, Possessions, & Expenses
Create a master list of all your assets and possessions. We recommend that our clients create this list in an excel spreadsheet. This spreadsheet should include the balances of your bank accounts, retirement funds, investments, credit cards, life insurance policies, and annuities. Don’t forget to also list out all of the property that you own and also personal property (this includes jewelry, boats, motorcycles, furniture, antiques, etc.).
It is also important to list out your personal expenses. This includes food, health insurance, car payments, mortgage payments, credit card payments, and students loans.
4. Make Copies of Everything
Even though you have decided to pursue mediation and make your divorce as amicable as possible, never count on being able to get copies of important financial records or for your spouse to do the right thing.
It is important to come to mediation with the records of all of the income sources in your marriage: paystubs, self-employment profit and loss statements, pensions, 1099s, and social security are included.
We also recommend that our clients take a cell phone walk-thru video of their home and properties. Evidence is power, and even the small items add up. Get footage of everything, including the inside of drawers and cabinets. You’ll feel better knowing you have this information later.
5. Outline Your Goals
It is important for you to come to mediation knowing what is most important to you and what you are willing to sacrifice. List out what a successful mediation settlement would look like for you in advance. Also consider the other side, and list out what you anticipate will be most important to the other party.
During the mediation process, it is imperative that you are able to communicate what is important to you and why it is important to you. In doing so, you foster understanding between you and the other party while increasing your chances of reaching a successful settlement agreement. You’ll help the mediator understand too; they can be a powerful ally.
Be willing to compromise with the other side while keeping in mind your bottom line. Bringing your list with you to mediation and referencing it will aid you in the heat of the moment and prevent you from accepting inferior terms.
If you and your ex have children together, it is important that your children’s needs and interests are made a top priority. Child custody agreements can get heated, but if the goal is to keep the health and well being of your children your top priority, the negotiations will often go more smoothly. Many courts require mediation for child custody disputes before you even see the judge.