First Fives – Preparing for Mediation

You have agreed to mediation. Your first session is scheduled. Wondering how to prepare? Start with these steps and you’ll be well-positioned to have an effective and productive meeting.

1.      Start Where You Want to End.

A divorce comes with so much to figure out: home, kids, job. Before you dive into any particular issue, get a firm vision in place for your post-divorce life. Right now, you may be hurt and angry but for your own sake, you don’t want to permanently live in such an emotional state.

Sit still for a moment and think about the other side of the pain and limbo. Visualize your ideal post-divorce life. How are your children? Do they live with peace-filled parents who give them permission to love and be with the other parent? Are exchanges calm and even cordial? Are you comfortable financially and able to meet your needs and save for the future? Do you have warm, caring relationships with friends and family – maybe even your former spouse’s friends and family? Do you have meaningful, fulfilling work? Are you exercising and eating well and taking care of yourself physically? Do you play often?

It’s tempting to bypass this vision work. But you can’t create your ideal life if you don’t know what that looks like.

2.      Educate Yourself About Effective Negotiation Strategy.

There is an art to conveying your needs and interests to your spouse or partner in a way that he or she can hear them, rather than resist them. Read Getting Past No by William Ury, and Beyond Reason by Daniel Shapiro, both of which are available at your local bookstore or online at Amazon.com.  Beyond Reason is excellent at helping you understand how emotions can hijack problem-solving. Both of these books are available from our client lending library. Just call the office and ask if they are on the shelf.

3.      Don’t Think of Your Mediator as a Judge for Hire.

The mediator is not the decision-maker. That’s your job—together with your spouse or partner. Don’t waste time arguing your point over and over, trying to convince the mediator your way is the right way. Instead, ensure that you’ve stated your point, listen to the other’s perspective, and then turn attention to generating options to accommodate some of each.

4.      Know the options.

If you want equal parenting time, that could mean that every year your kids switch homes—or every hour. In between those extreme poles are numerous options. Prepare three you could live with before mediation.

Do the same with each issue. Want to ensure you have a home that meets your needs? One way is to keep your marital home. Think of at least 2 other options for meeting that goal. Perhaps keep the home for some period and then sell? Go house hunting. You may attend an open house at a home that you’d much rather own than the one you’re in. Maybe not but you’ve demonstrated that you are at least willing to consider options beyond the one you want most. It may help to consult with a lawyer in advance of, or during, mediation. Ideally that lawyer is also a trained mediator to ensure that she or he is knowledgeable about the process.

5.       Gather the data.

Take stock of what you own and owe and make a list. This does not necessarily need to include every object in your household and garage, unless you are concerned that your spouse or partner will remove these items without discussing with you.  But it should include your major assets and all debts. If an asset has a title – like a home, car, or boat – it should definitely be included on your list. Then gather all current statements that show the value of the asset or the balance on the debt. For a complete checklist to help get you organized, click here to download our Document Checklist for Settlement Planning.

Want more? Click here to download my Top 10 Steps to Make Mediation a Success for practical tips for confidently going into your first mediation session. You want resolution and you want to know you and your children will be okay. The time you spend to prepare for mediation is worth the investment.

Wishing you wisdom,

Deborah Bennet Berecz
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Berecz and Associates PLC | Attorneys, Mediators, Collaborative Lawyers | Grand Rapids, MI | Saint Joseph, MI

Disclaimer: The purpose of this site is to give you information about our practice and about areas of the law that may interest you. Everyone's situation is different, and nothing here should be treated as legal advice for your case. For your own legal advice, contact us.

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