Some couples find that mediation is a useful way to get divorced. Mediation involves hiring a neutral third party (such as a retired judge) who will negotiate the divorce or help you resolve specific issues of contention.
Both you and your spouse must agree to use a mediator, but any agreements made are strictly non-binding. This helpful advice is from Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA.
The biggest advantage of mediation is that it can be a quick, less formal method of getting divorced because court dates and litigation are not involved. It can also help minimize certain issues and acrimony on both sides.
The non-binding element of mediation is a double-edged sword, as it can sometimes be a waste of time and money. Another disadvantage is that it is not appropriate in all cases. For instance, if you and your spouse have serious issues, mediation may not be the right path for you.
However, you should be aware that mediation will likely save you money. It is an efficient way to navigate the divorce process, and it does not involve a lot of court paperwork. It is not as public as other options, and it does not bind you.
Divorce Mediation Checklist
1) List the Property to be Divided
To start, you need to understand which assets need to be divided. If you do not have a clean understanding of everything you own, you will end up getting less than you deserve during the divorce process. Consider the following:
- Bank, Investment, and Retirement Account Balances
- Marital Home
- Purchase Date
- Mortgage and Loan Information
- Appraisal and Valuation Information
- Other Home(s) Information
- Vehicle Data
- Purchase Date
- Estimated Value (Kelly Blue Book or similar)
- Insurance Information
- Personal Property of Value (including jewelry, artwork and antiques
- Insurance Policy Information
- Any Other Assets or Debts That May Need Division (such as student loans)
2) What to Ask For during Divorce Mediation
Once you know what property you have, the next question is: what are your goals? What do you want to achieve when mediation is over? Do you want to keep the house, or sell it and split the proceeds? Who will have primary custody of the children? You should make a thorough list of what you want. BE REALISTIC. Then rank your priorities in order.
- Define Your Goals
- What is essential?
- What things can you live without?
- What is on your wish list?
- Consider the Goals of Your Soon-to-be Ex
- What do you think they care about most?
- Do you have areas you will probably agree upon?
- What areas will likely cause conflict?
- What is most important to you?
- What is an acceptable outcome?
- What do you not care about very much?
3) Learn Your Local Laws
To understand if your goals are realistic, you must comprehend what you may be entitled to.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are the state and county laws that govern your divorce?
- Are you in a community property or equitable distribution state?
- Should you expect to pay or receive a specific amount of child or spousal support?
- How does the state resolve custody?
Preparation Is Key to Success during Mediation
Mediation has the potential to resolve all the major issues in your divorce, but it can also be fruitless. While there is no guarantee of success, one way to guarantee a difficult mediation process is failing to prepare.
Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is author of Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide and host of the Divorce and Your Money Show on iTunes. Learn more at www.divorceandyourmoney.com.