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10 TIPS TO PREPARING FOR A MEDIATION
by Dennis A. Cohen, Esq., Settlement Works
[Note: The following is written to California residents, thus forms and a few other aspects will be different in other states.
However preparation for a mediation is similar no matter where you are located.]
Mediating your divorce is a lot easier than litigating it in court. Nevertheless there is work to be done. Preparation on your part will make a difference in how efficiently you will be able to resolve the financial and other matters that may be in dispute. Following these tips will ease the way and speed the process.
1. Start by acknowledging and appreciating yourself and your spouse for making a choice to work things out, rather than fighting them out. This is more than a "feel good" exercise. Most likely there is a degree of tension, anger, resentment in your relationship or you wouldn't be getting divorced. Acknowledging a positive step, such as choosing mediation, will start to quench the fires of your divorce, and lay the groundwork for the resolution and completion to come. The time you take to speak these words or send an appropriate email will be well worth it.
2. Make a list of the issues that are important to you to discuss and resolve. If there are urgent or immediate matters to address, make sure you have gathered as many details as possible about what needs to be accomplished immediately and what may be the obstacles.
3. Gather financial documents and, if possible, begin filling out the following form (click on the words to access form) form FL142 (Schedule of Assets and Debts).
4. Understand that you and your spouse are in a fiduciary relationship with each other. That means that you have a duty of the highest good faith and fair dealings with each other and requires each of you to share copies of any books, records and other financial or legal documents that you may have.
5. Strive for fairness in asset and debt division. Remember that the Court will require a substantially equal division of your community assets. Thinking and acting along those lines will save a great deal of time, money and aggravation.
6. Draft a prospective monthly budget for you (and your children). Filing out the FL150 (Income and Expense Declaration) is a good place to start.
7. Address the inevitable shortfall (e.g., earning more, making do with less). The cost of two households is almost always going to be significantly more than your current expenditures. Starting to think about how you and your spouse are going to manage on less money as you move forward will make the eventual adjustments that much easier.
8. Consider spousal support and calculate child support. California law requires courts to adhere to statewide uniform guidelines in setting child support orders. You can access these guidelines by clicking HERE.
9. Consult a family lawyer. Even though you and your spouse may be meeting with a mediator without attorneys, it is often helpful to have an attorney with whom you have consulted and can continue to do so throughout the divorce process. This is a matter of personal choice. Some people need and appreciate having an attorney to call on, others are fine without one.
10. Monitor your attitude. Stay positive. It’s better for you and MUCH better for your children. Many, many people have successfully navigated these waters, and you will too. If you and your spouse strive to be patient, trusting, appreciative and generous, your mediation will be easier and more positive than you could ever imagine.