Divorce mediation can be long, boring, tiresome, and emotionally draining. It can also be a tremendous relief when a mediated settlement agreement (M.S.A.) is signed. Giving the time and effort to prepare is essential to increase the chances of a successful mediation.
What Does Divorce Mediation Involve?
A day of mediation involves stretches of inactivity interspersed with intense concentration. Both parties will spend periods ranging from 30 to 90 minutes, or more, waiting for the divorce mediator to return from the other room. When the mediator is visiting with you and your lawyer, time will go by quickly. You will be discussing the most important aspects of your life. When you’re waiting for the mediator to return, you’ll feel boredom and tension; and wonder what could possibly be taking so long.
Some mediators do not allow anyone other than the parties to attend. If you want someone with you, ask your lawyer if it’s allowed. You don’t want your friend, spouse, or parent to spend the day in a coffee shop or waiting in the parking lot.
Preparing For A Texas Divorce Mediation
- Maintain realistic expectations
Keep up with the developments in the case and try to maintain realistic expectations for the outcome. Prior to mediation, understand the case details and issues to be resolved. Try to form a realistic picture of what an agreement might look like. Mediation is not arbitration or a trial. The mediator does not make a decision. If a case is resolved at mediation, it will be because an agreement was reached. Having a realistic picture of the general terms of what an agreement might look like will help make mediation productive.
- Nobody Gets 100% at Mediation
A mediated agreement is a compromise. If one side is willing to give the other everything requested, mediation is unnecessary. When there is a genuine disagreement, mediation is successful because each gives and moves. It never feels like “give and take.” Each side feels like he or she has given way more than the other. For each, it feels like “give and give some more.” Do not acquiesce or ‘crater.’ Just keep in mind you will not receive 100% of what you request.
- Make a list of all issues to be resolved
It’s generally not a good idea to decide a bottom line on everything in advance. There are just too many variables in family law to dig in your heels before the day begins. But it is a good idea to list each issue and item that must be discussed. After hours of negotiating an issue might be overlooked. You can review your list before signing the M.S.A.
- Have a copy of all documentation that is sent to the mediator
Some lawyers will send the mediator information about the case in advance. Ask your lawyer for a copy of everything that is sent to the mediator and do not share it with anyone. It’s important to verify the accuracy of the information that your lawyer sends to the mediator.
Try not to think about the case or discuss it the day before mediation. Instead, relax and do what you can to get a good night’s sleep.
- Have well-organized financial documents
Bringing organized financial documents is a huge part of the preparation process. Information should include all assets such as bank accounts, retirement funds, real estate, timeshares, annuities, stock, and businesses. All debt should be brought to the table including credit card balances, student loans, mortgage loans, vehicle loans, and any other outstanding loans or debt.
- Bring something to occupy the time
Bring something to occupy the quiet time while the mediator is visiting with the other party. The tension while waiting for the mediator to return can be emotionally draining. It’s good to have something like a book, game, or even work to keep from thinking about the wait.
- Refrain from giving periodic updates
Family and friends will be eager for updates. Tell them the day will be long and progress slow. They should not expect updates throughout the day. Phone calls, emails, and texts from people who are not participating the mediation process will only increase stress.
- Keep notes on all discussions
Throughout the day keep notes about everything that is discussed and what agreements are reached. Carefully read and compare the M.S.A. (mediated settlement agreement) to your mediation notes and to the list of things that was to be discussed prior to mediation. Occasionally, an M.S.A. that was written after many hours of mediation leaves out an essential term that was discussed earlier in the day. Do not rely on the lawyers to make sure everything is written.
Divorce Mediation is a highly successful method of resolving family law disputes without the animosity and expense of a trial. Although it can be a stressful day, mediation allows the parties to write their own agreement instead of having a judge dictate the outcome. Remember, a judge will only see evidence that is legally admitted at trial. Being prepared for divorce mediation will assist the process and contribute to its success.
DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein in intended for informational purposes only and should not be as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.
© Copyright Brian McNamara, 2016,may be reproduced with credit to the author.