Almost all divorces in Washington end up in a mediation before they are resolved. So what should you do to be ready to reach an agreement?
Here is a short list of helpful hints:
Prepare, prepare, prepare.
1. Gather updated income information for you, including a complete copy of your most recent tax returns, with W-2’s, and pay stubs for the past six months, or at least the most recent paystub if it has year to date information on it.
2. Update your financial statement if you have previously done one for the court. Expenses that commonly change with divorce are: rent, food budgets, tax withholding, re-training/education costs, day care, and health insurance.
3. Gather all financial data and provide it to your attorney. This includes retirement statements, an appraisal for your house (or at least a market analysis in writing from a reputable realtor), blue book values on all vehicles (yours and your partners) and complete list of debts with credit card statements.
4. Make a list of any personal property items you may still want that are in the possession of your partner.
5. Review your temporary parenting arrangement. What changes do you want to make? How did the holiday schedule work over the past months, vacations, transfer arrangements and decision making? Do you want any changes? Now is the time to ask.
6. Set a meeting with your attorney three to four weeks before your mediation date. Call or email them to make the appointment. Take copies of all the above documents to your attorney if he/she does not already have them. Take a list of questions. Be prepared to talk strategy for negotiations and the strengths and weaknesses of your case from a legal (not emotional) perspective.
7. Think about where you want to be 5 years after the divorce. Picturing a positive future can reduce stress and make you more hopeful for the future.
8. Think about what is most important to you and what you could “give up.”
9. Make sure you have the money or room on a credit card to pay the mediator.
10. If you have children, regardless of their ages, remember you and your ex are forever linked and how you handle mediation will have a long term impact on all members of your divorced family.
When mediation day arrives:
1. Eat breakfast, find a long term parking spot so you do not have to excuse yourself to move your car, and be on time. Bring the funds or credit card you need to pay the mediator.
2. Keep in mind that five year dream from the preparation list above.
3. Come with an open mind and try to leave the past hurts at the door. They will not be resolved at mediation.
4. Bring your strategy for negotiation. Where will you start and what is your bottom line, meaning the least you will settle for? This is something you should have previously discussed with your attorney.
5. Keep in mind that your bottom line may not be set in stone and some flexibility will be required. Neither you nor your partner will get everything you want.
6. Do NOT bring your new boyfriend or girlfriend if you have one and ask your attorney before you bring any other support person. Do NOT bring children. Ever.
7. Know the strengths and weaknesses in your position should you end up in court.
8. If you feel flooded or need a break ask for one. If you want to consult with your attorney without the mediator, do so. And remember in the negotiation to speak. This is not your attorney’s life, it is yours.
9. If an agreement is reached, READ IT BEFORE YOUR SIGN IT. In Washington State, it will be binding.
10. If you have children, regardless of their ages, remember you and your ex are forever linked and how you handle mediation will have a long term impact on all members of your divorced family. Yes you heard this before, it’s worth repeating.
Have a successful outcome that fits your family and your life.