Preparing For Mediation

Mediation is the process by which a neutral third party, the mediator, facilitates communication and negotiation between parties to help them reach a voluntary agreement regarding their dispute. In a divorce case, reaching an agreement with your spouse via mediation , as opposed to extended litigation where a judge determines the outcome of your case, typically means your case will end sooner, for less money, and, oftentimes, leaves you with a better relationship with your soon to be ex-spouse, which is especially important where children are involved.

Appropriate preparation can help you get the most out of mediation process. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare:

Information Gathering

You can’t negotiate if you don’t know what you have. Make a spreadsheet or list of all assets and liabilities in either party’s name and collect supporting documentation of the current value of each item. Also, collect information related to your family income and expenses including current income information, the past three years’ worth of tax returns for you and your spouse, an outline of your household budget including fixed and discretionary expenses. It’s also helpful to think about what your budget post-divorce may look like and what your needs will be once you and your spouse have separated. If you have minor children, put together an outline, or general calendar, of both parties work schedules and all other obligations of the parents, along with the children’s school schedules, a list of school holiday breaks, family holiday traditions, and children’s extracurricular schedules.

Understanding Your Options, Interests, and Goals

Once you have gathered all your information, meet with your family law attorney. Typically, attorneys are not involved in the mediation, so having this pre-mediation meeting with an experienced family law attorney is important to help you understand what a court is likely to order in your case based on Ohio law. Then, think about, and outline your interests and goals. Make notes about what is most important to you and consider what you may be willing to give up, regardless of what a court may or may not order, to resolve the case entirely through mediation.

Have the Right Mindset

This may be the most important preparation step. Coming into a mediation angry or with the wrong intentions will only serve as a roadblock to progress and a waste of time. Don’t make assumptions, don’t make rude remarks, and don’t raise irrelevant issues based on emotion. Remember that mediation is about compromise, not strong-arming or ultimatums. That doesn’t mean you should roll-over and give your spouse whatever he or she wants, but coming in with a clear mind and remembering what is most important to you will get you much further in the negotiation.

Mediation can be a great tool to resolve you divorce case but only if you come prepared and with the right mindset! Contact one of CPM’s experienced family law attorneys who can walk you through the mediation process or discuss other options available to support your unique situation.

By Liz Zuercher, Associate, Carlile Patchen & Murphy LLP

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