10 Steps for Divorce Mediation
A divorce mediation checklist or having a 10 step plan is helpful for anyone going through the process of mediating a divorce. Even in the best circumstances, an emotional component plays a part in the mediation process. Plus, with all the many moving pieces to keep up, anyone can lose track. Please use the following 10 step guide to make sure you have considered everything and are not surprised.
1. Finding the right divorce mediator requires you to do your research
First, give yourself the information and time to choose the right divorce mediator for you.
It is essential to do your research to find the right mediator for you. Divorce mediation is a very personal experience, so you have to find a divorce mediator whose personality fits you and your spouse. Not all divorce mediators or mediation processes are the same. Divorce mediators use different methodologies and offer various services. Some divorce mediators are also attorneys. Make sure you have all the information to pick the right mediator for you and your spouse.
The internet is a great place to start. Read blogs to learn more about the divorce mediation process and what to look for and to expect. Go to different divorce mediator websites to know about that divorce mediator.
2. Meet with a Divorce Mediator
You and your spouse should interview your divorce mediator before you hire them. A meeting will ensure that the divorce mediator is a good fit for the two of you and your needs.
A skilled divorce mediator should be able to tell you about their mediation process. The divorce mediator should be able to tell you the timeline for their mediation process. They should tell you about their fee structure and what it covers. The mediator should tell you about how they succeed with couples in mediation.
3. Hiring a Divorce Mediator
You and your spouse should agree on which divorce mediation process works best for the two of you and which divorce mediator seems to best suit your needs. You and your spouse should also agree on how the payment of the mediator will be handled.
The mediator should have you sign a contract that includes payment information and the number of sessions etc., that the fee covers. Make sure you have covered all the elements of your divorce mediation checklist in the contract agreement.
4. Mediation Mindset
Mediation is a process whereby two people meet with a neutral mediator who helps facilitate discussion to help the parties reach a fair, agreeable, expedited resolution to their issue.
You and your spouse need to go into divorce mediation planning on compromising and succeeding. A “my way or the highway” attitude will not lead to a successful mediation.
A mediator is obligated to be a neutral facilitator. Therefore a good mediator will interject in a mediation process to keep things balanced during the process. The divorce mediator will use different techniques to thwart any power grabs on the part of either spouse.
You and your spouse should both remember throughout the mediation that you both chose this process to reach a fair, peaceful resolution of your differences for the best interest of your family.
5. Information Gathering with a Divorce Mediation Checklist
A skilled divorce mediator will assist you and your spouse in gathering the necessary financial information needed to make informed, intelligent decisions about the division of your assets and debts and the determination of child and spousal support/alimony.
Most divorce mediators will give you a list of financial documents that you need to gather to share with the mediator and your spouse. This list often includes information about assets such as bank statements, investment statements, retirement statements, insurance information, pay stubs, tax returns, and real estate valuations, automobiles, and other valuables. The list also includes information about debts such as mortgage statements, home equity loans, student loans, car loans, credit card statements, etc. At this stage, a divorce mediation checklist is a useful document for managing the collection of information.
If there is unique information needed to decide custody matters, such a school ranking or medical information, or input from a child’s therapist, then the mediator will also instruct you to gather that information as well.
Many divorce mediators will have you and your spouse create a secure online account to share this information, such as on DropBox.
6. Custody Mediation Sessions
A divorce mediator will start a custody mediation making sure that the parents are focused on the child.
A custody mediation session usually lasts 2- 4 hours.
The mediator will instruct the parents that it is healthiest for a child to feel loved and supported by both parents.
The mediator will ask the parents to focus on creating a schedule that best suits the child’s needs as well as giving each parent enough time with the child. Parents need to remember that it is the child that is going back and forth between two households because the parents decided to separate not the child. Parents need to make this transition as smooth as possible for the child.
The divorce mediator will help the parents create a parenting schedule that outlines parent sharing time during the week and weekends and holidays and vacations. The parenting agreement will also address other things like medical, religious, and educational decisions for the child and daily stuff like phone calls. Other considerations include how to introduce a child to a parent’s new significant other. Or what happens when the parent travels or goes somewhere overnight during their scheduled parenting time. Again, having thought thru the process with a divorce mediation checklist prior to making final decisions will help you obtain the best results.
Developing good communication skills is key to a reasonable parenting agreement, so the parenting agreement may include different communication tools to be used by the parents.
The goal of a mediated parenting agreement is to support each parent’s role in the co-parenting process to meet the needs of their child best.
7. Financial Mediation Sessions
Often divorce mediators conduct at least two financial mediation sessions.
A financial mediation session usually lasts anywhere from 2- 4 hours.
Usually, the divorce mediator prepares a workbook that will be presented at the first mediation. It can include an outline of the parties’ assets and debts, support calculations, copies of the divorce laws in the parties’ state and/or any other information that may help the parties have to assist them in the mediation process.
The first session usually focuses on outlining the assets and debts of the marital estate and discussing support issues. There is usually no expectation of reaching any clear cut agreements at the first mediation sessions.
Most people’s heads are swimming after the first financial mediation session. Knowing this, the divorce mediator does not schedule the next mediation session for at least another 10 to 14 days after the first financial mediation session.
This allows the dust to settle and allows the parties to clear their heads or gather additional information needed to make an informed decision.
Spouses may also decide to meet with a certified divorce financial analyst in between sessions to better understand how the division of the marital assets will look long term. A certified divorce financial analyst helps parties consider different scenarios concerning the division of their marital assets and debts, focusing on both short and long-term economic values of their assets and debts and how it can affect the parties later in life. They use specialized software programs to help them analyze assets like property, expenses, retirement accounts, pensions, inflation, life insurance, and child support in order to assist parties in making the decision concerning the division of their marital estate.
8. Decide on the Terms of Final Settlement
The best scenario for a financial settlement is not always an equal division of assets and debts, especially where there are children involved and a disparity in income between the spouses. The ultimate goal of the financial mediation is to create an agreed-upon plan of the marital estate division that will best suit everyone’s needs post- divorce. That does not always mean the same thing as what a court would decide.
The best scenario for a parenting agreement is not always a child spending equal time with each parent. Parents need to focus on what best suits the child’s needs while they transition between two households.
The mediation process allows spouses to create whatever scenario best suits their family as they transition from one household to two. The terms are developed jointly by the parties’ agreement and are not dictated by any judge, lawyer or law.
9. The Marital Settlement
If your divorce mediator is an attorney, they may serve as a neutral attorney who can draft the marital settlement agreement document. If the divorce mediator is not an attorney, they will prepare a memorandum of understanding instead. Both documents will contain all terms and conditions of the marital settlement mutually agreed upon by the spouses.
The marital settlement agreement is a legally binding contract with legal language that both spouses will ultimately sign. The memorandum of understanding is not legally binding. It is simply an outline of the terms and conditions of the marital settlement that have been agreed upon by the parties.
Regardless, after either the marital settlement agreement or memorandum of understanding is created, the parties should meet with the divorce mediator to review the document. They should ensure the documents contain everything the parties agreed upon in the division of the marital estate and/or parenting terms. It is also a good time to review your divorce mediation checklist to make sure you have addressed all concerns.
10. Review/Preparation of a Marital Settlement Agreement
If your divorce mediator is not an attorney, one spouse will need to hire an attorney to draft the marital settlement agreement document that will include all the terms and conditions of the division of the marital estate that are outlined in the marital settlement agreement. The other spouse should also hire an attorney to review the agreement prepared by the other spouse’s attorney.
If the marital settlement agreement is prepared by the mediator, both spouses are encouraged to hire a mediator friendly attorney for each of them to review the document in order to ensure they understand the agreement and that it clearly reflects what they believe they have agreed upon.
The key with any attorney hired in this situation is to ensure that the attorney understands they are not being hired to undo the agreement but to make sure that the spouse understands the agreement and that agreement says what the spouse thinks it should say.
Want to Know More?
If you are interested in a consultation to discuss the options available to resolve your divorce, custody issues, support, or equitable distribution issues, please contact me and I can help you investigate your options. Call me, Lenore M.J. Myers, at 215-470-3121 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.