When a couple makes the decision to visit a mediator, there should be some level of mutual agreement in place. The assumption is they are on speaking terms and willing to negotiate peaceably. There will be a greater chance of success if the couple has had some initial discussions prior to the meeting. Waiting until the appointment with a mediator to determine whether the arrangement will work may prove to be unproductive. Each person should be able to communicate and be heard. If prior conversation is not amicable, a divorce mediator may not be the best choice moving forward. The couple must be able to proceed with an uncontested divorce to make working with a mediator fruitful.
Your mediator will serve as a neutral party and will not represent one spouse over the other. If your goal is to save time, money, and stress, this can be successful achieved through several appointments to talk through the various points of negotiation.
There are numerous items that couple should have discussed and prepared in advance of their first meeting with a divorce mediator. A divorce mediation checklist should cover finances and a rough draft of child visitation. If both sit down and write out a summary of the points they have discussed, they can review with the mediator at the appointment. The process will be less stressful if some details have been reviewed in advance.
Your divorce mediation checklist should include the following items:
- Child custody and visitation– when you work a divorce mediator, the assumption is you are both willing to share custody. Your arrangements should consider both of your work schedules and activities the children participate in. Holidays and birthdays may be alternated, if agreeable. Some points to consider are pick up and drop off times, alternating weekends, obligations of the custodial parent to bring children to extra curriculum and/or religious activities. Parents should agree to discuss major medical decisions and choice of school outside the child’s residential area. Will grandparents have special considerations or be responsible for childcare? Will current arrangements still be possible when parents are separated? These are all important points to consider.
- Child support – support must take both parents’ salaries into consideration. Support costs will be calculated based on their combined income, education, health care costs, childcare (if applicable), and activities both parents agree to pay for.
- Spousal support – if one parent has cared for the children while the other worked, financial arrangements can be made for a non-custodial parent to provide financial support to the other parent to continue providing childcare.
- List of assets – A complete list of properties, investments including IRAs, jewelry, etc. should be individually listed with their values. Property and other assets may need to be assessed to have a tangible number to consider. Bring recent statements, tax returns, and pay stubs.
- Liabilities – a complete list of outstanding credit card bills, mortgages, home equity loans, etc. for both parties should be listed by monthly and yearly amounts.
Your mediator will help you both work out the fine points of the divorce agreement with a schedule that permits negotiation of one section of the agreement at a time. You will have several discussions while the mediator guides you to a mutually acceptable arrangement.