You have scheduled your first mediation session. You are nervous (to be expected) wondering how it will go and what to expect. You wonder how the other party may act or how you will react.
The firs thing you must do is take a deep breath and relax. You have made a responsible choice for yourself, and most of all for the children. Mediation in the best way to handle finances and how your family will operate going forward. It is a good thing!
Let’s make sure you are completely prepared for mediation. Below are several tips for preparing to your first mediation session:
1. Organized Financial Documents:
You should have the following: all of your assets to include bank accounts, mutual funds, brokerage accounts, retirement funds, real estate, vehicles, time shares, businesses, important household contents, annuities, stock, equity in companies, pending law suits. You will need to have balances of all bank accounts and retirement funds. For your debts, you will need the balance and monthly payment on your mortgage and home equity loan, all credit cards balances, all loan balances including student loans, private loans, loans against retirement funds and car loans. If you have any loans within the circle of your family members or friends (you borrowed or lent money to someone, including parents, siblings, friends etc.) make sure that you have concrete information on that as well. Make sure that you are super organized.
2. Get Your Emotions Under Control:
Mediation is a negotiation process, and heated emotions will not allow you to have the clear head you need. This is not the time to air out old grievances or say hurtful things. You can find a therapist or use your personal support system for that. Be kind and patient to yourself. This is a difficult time. But come to mediation as composed. This will help the process run smooth.
3. Be Prepared to Negotiate, Not to Argue:
This mediation stands for how you will move on going forward. You cannot change the past so this is an opportunity to start fresh. Arguing is something that was done before and obviously did not work. Negotiating, however, works very well in all situations. The question you need to ask yourself for mediation are: What do I want? Your mediator can help you achieve your goal, within reason.
4. You Can Ask to Talk to Your Mediator Alone:
If you have specific concerns about any of the preceding, you can address them alone with your mediator. You can ask for a few minutes individually with your mediator. Most mediators allow that, and none of what you discuss with the mediator will be transferred or reported to the other party. Most mediators understand that not everything can be discussed with both of you in the room. A few minutes of private conversation can help things move along at times. Your mediator will spend similar time with the other party. Understand and be respectful of that.
6. Plan a Budget:
It will be easier to negotiate if you know how much money you need to achieve your monthly goals or how much you can afford to pay and still live comfortably. Be realistic. Base your budget on fair and concrete expenses, and bring it to mediation with you. Your budget form should include everything! Housing and household expenses, car expenses, kids activities and expenses, health insurance, co-pays and deductibles, as well as miscellaneous (detailed and specified) expenses. There are many free family budget forms online. Find the one that you like the most or ask your mediator for one.
7. Learn Your Rights and Obligations:
Go to more than one consultation and educate yourself. You should read articles and gather all the information that you can. Do not go into the process of divorce before you know the terms, the meanings and the implications. Make sure you have a clear picture of what your options are, and what each options are available for you.
8. Put Your Concerns on the Table:
Your concerns are important to the process and should be discussed. Some people are concerned about traveling with their kids, some have a family member they are concerned about, others are concerned about not being notified before the kids spend time with a significant other. Everything is relevant, and this is your opportunity to speak up and have your voice heard. Use this proactive process to assist you in setting the grounds for productive co-parenting and peace of mind.