How to prepare for divorce mediation to get the best results
In divorce litigation, oftentimes a Judge will order the parties to attend a mediation before he/she will schedule a final hearing in the matter. You, your attorney, your spouse and their attorney go to a mediator’s office to hopefully settle all outstanding issues. The mediator is thankfully objective, only there to push you both to agree to terms that you may not love, but can live with longterm.
What to expect:Before attending the mediation, you should of course meet with your attorney at least 2 weeks ahead of the date of mediation. At that meeting, you should bring with you a proposed parenting plan if you have children in common, a list of every asset you want, every debt you have, and how you want them divided. It is your job to enlighten your attorney as to what you want the final outcome to be. Remember, you have lived your life, hence impart your emotional and financial needs to your attorney. Be prepared that you are not going to get everything on your wish list if you in fact settle. The benefit to reaching a settlement during mediation is that you and your spouse make the decisions. Your attorney is there as a guide only. You determine how and where your children are going to spend each Christmas and birthday and which schools they will attend etc. The minute you step into a Judge's chambers, your ability to make that decision has vanished.
Who can come with me?Some mediators allow you to bring a non-party with you to the mediation in addition to your attorney. Before you make that decision, weigh the benefits of allowing someone in who may completely derail any settlement talks as a result of their prejudices or preconceived opinions. Of course, talk to your attorney before inviting a non-party to attend mediation. He/she may have strong opinions as to their attendance.
What if we settle?If, at the end of your mediation you reach a settlement, the mediator will draft an agreement for you, your attorney, your spouse and their attorney to sign. Once it is done, that is it. There is no buyer's remorse in mediation. Absent fraud or coercion, you are stuck with that agreement so be certain the agreement is what you want. Once the agreement is filed, you may need a quick 5 minute hearing to finalize the divorce or in some states, your attorney can just send a proposed Order ratifying the agreement to the Judge for his/her signature.
Am I doomed if we don't settle at mediation?If you don't settle, there are great benefits from your attendance at mediation. You now have an idea of what the other side wants and perhaps some of the information that they intend to use to get it. Do not despair if you don't settle at mediation. There is nothing to prevent settlement after mediation but before trial.