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What Do I Need for Divorce Mediation?

Working through what’s necessary for a divorce—dividing assets, developing a parenting plan, reconciling debts, etc.—can be like trying to navigate through a minefield. Flaring tempers and hurt feelings could impede progress and make it a more toxic experience than it needs to be.

Divorce mediation is a way to neutralize what could otherwise become an overwhelmingly negative situation. But divorce mediators, as skilled as they are, cannot come up with all the information that’s necessary to develop a divorce settlement—that much is on you and your spouse. Here is our comprehensive list of all the factors to consider and all the paperwork you’ll need to get your first divorce mediation meeting underway.

Divorce Mediation Checklist

One of the fundamental aspects of divorce mediation is for each spouse to fully release all relevant information. Holding back key financial or other data will sabotage the entire process. Admittedly, it’s not a pleasant task to gather the needed information; it is often said by divorcing couples to be the hardest part of mediation. But once you’ve put in the time, effort, and preparation, everything else can proceed seamlessly.

Here’s what you’ll need: (1) personal information, (2) assets and financial information, (3) insurance information, and (4) other documents drafted during marriage.

1. Personal Information

Basic details for each spouse, including:

  • Contact info
  • Full names
  • Address(es)
  • Marriage date
  • Employment information
  • Annual gross income–pay stubs for the past 6 months for both 1099 and W-2 employment

2. Assets and Financial Information

  • Current balance statements for stocks, bonds, other investments, and all bank accounts (savings, checking, money markets, CDs)
  • Current balance statements for and of the children’s accounts (CD’s, 529 plans, or other custodial savings accounts)
  • Model, make, and year of owned vehicles, along with their current market value
  • Estimated value of personal property, including the contents of any homes owned, along with jewelry, art, antiques and other valuable or collectible objects; appraisals might be necessary
  • Your home’s current market value along with up-to-date appraisals of other real estate or property (i.e. investment opportunities, vacation homes, timeshares, land)
  • Up-to-date retirement account statements (i.e. 401(K)s, 403(b)s, 457s, company pension plans, annuities, Thrift Savings Plans, IRAs) and/or employment benefits (stock options, incentives, etc.)
  • Details of any unsettled or open civil litigation cases
  • Detailed statements of unpaid personal and/or home equity loans, mortgages, lines of credit, motor vehicle loans, and/or open credit card accounts
  • Current appraisal of any owned business(es)
  • Copies of tax returns (both income and corporate, if applicable) for the past three years along with 1099 or W-2 statements

3. Insurance Information

  • Explanatory pages for life insurance, disability insurance, or other policies, along with limits and provisions
  • Information for all medical, vehicle, property, umbrella, or other personal insurance policies

4. Other Information

Copies of various original documents drafted during the marriage will also be needed:

  • Marriage certificate
  • Last will and testament
  • Post- and pre-nuptial agreements, or any other pre-marital, and/or marital contracts
  • Established trusts

Those are hard-and-fast foundation pieces that will directly affect how quickly and efficiently you can get through your divorce mediation sessions. That said, there are some other optional and intangible things you need that can have a direct impact on how you approach your divorce mediation.

Directions: Ask about the parking situation and plug directions into your phone ahead of time to ensure you arrive on time and to avoid confusion or difficulty in finding the office.

Contact Information: Include a list of phone numbers for the key people in your personal, professional, and financial life for easy reference (i.e. close family members, insurance brokers, bankers, financial planners, and other trusted advisers).

Calendar: You’ll need to know when you’re available for follow-up divorce mediation sessions and other key appointments; a calendar is also vital when discussing child custody matters.

Court Documents: Keep a file on hand to organize all of the documents that will be filed with or required by the court.

Key Topics: List the most important topics that you want to discuss, along with notes on the topics that matter most to you.

Healthiest You: Divorce mediation sessions can last an hour or more and can be physically and emotionally draining. Getting adequate rest, bringing snacks and drinks, and dressing in layers helps to ensure that no matter the situation, you are comfortable and that the divorce mediation session will not be affected by conditions outside of your control.

Mindset: Potentially the hardest and most important things to bring to divorce mediation are a positive outlook, patience, and an open mind. It’s also key to know what is not negotiable and where you’re ready to compromise. 

Payment arrangements are also best handled prior to your first session. Find out the pay requirements from the mediator and work with your spouse to determine what each of you will be responsible for. In most divorce mediation cases, you both will either split the cost 50/50 or proportional to your individual income.

Having all of these things in order will help you get through divorce mediation sessions more smoothly, while also making the most of the process that you are both paying for. And if, after all data is gathered and then presented, you feel that the other party hasn’t disclosed everything they could or should, this is best handled during—not outside of—a divorce mediation session. The mediator will be able to tactfully and in an unbiased way acknowledge each of your perspectives and work to find a resolution.

Practical Matters to Consider During Divorce Mediation

If you believe that you will need spousal support following the divorce, you will want to be extra thorough when compiling your financial data. Be sure to include all financial obligations and income information when preparing for divorce mediation.

When considering your practical, day-to-day needs remember too that health insurance and other insurance policies might not apply to you going forward. Children can be covered under either party’s insurance policy, but ex-spouses cannot. If acquiring a new policy will be a financial burden, given your circumstances, then it’s worth including this in your divorce mediation discussions.

If child support will be in order, be sure that you have a ready list of any costs that are specific to your child and may fall outside of general calculations. These could include out-of-pocket medical costs or fees for extracurricular activities, among other things. You’ll also want to discuss each parent's responsibility for child tax credits.

How to Approach Divorce Mediation 

Divorce mediation, while certainly a lower-stress option than litigation, can still have its fair share of emotional moments and stressors. After all, you’re in the process of total upheaval of your life as you know it. That said, a good part of how mediation works (or doesn’t) depends on you and your spouse and how you both come into your first session. Here is some tried-and-true advice and a few additional things to keep in mind:

Keep an Open Mind: The aim is amicable resolution, and a large part of that will likely be compromise–neither one of you is going to get everything you want. Concessions might be made, but your mediator will also be able to help you develop creative ways to solve problems. But you have to be open to it and in the right frame of mind to consider alternative ideas. Instead of focusing on what you consider to be “fair,” shift to finding what’s best for everyone, especially if children are involved.

Allow For Psychological Differences: In general, by the time the divorce process is initiated, one party has been thinking about the possibility of divorce for much longer than the other. They have already worked through some of the psychological steps–somewhat similar to grieving—and are more prepared to move forward. For the party that wasn’t considering divorce, the process can seem to be more jarring as they’re still doing some hard emotional work. Understanding this difference can make for smoother negotiations and less offense taken at potentially harsh statements encountered during discussions.

More Business, Less Personal: Of course divorce mediation will be an emotional process, and hurt feelings can happen. But in the end the goal is resolution. So thinking of the discussions as a business negotiation can help you to put distance between your grievances and the matters at hand. Focus on the future and how divorce mediation will help you to achieve your goals going forward.

Hire an Experienced Cleveland Divorce Mediator

Dottore Companies’ specialized divorce mediators are trained to facilitate discussion and get to the heart of vital matters that can determine the success of the divorce process. It’s only natural for tempers to flare, but our Cleveland divorce mediators help to calm the situation and keep negotiations moving forward. Whatever your needs are surrounding divorce mediation, know that Dottore can help with seasoned guidance and genuine care. Get in touch with us today to learn more about divorce mediation.

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