If you are getting ready to go to mediation for your divorce or family law matter, you may be feeling nervous or overwhelmed. These feelings are completely natural and expected. When we help clients prepare for mediation we often receive questions like “What do I need to bring?” “What is the process like?” “What should I be doing to prepare?”
Luckily, there are several ways you can prepare for mediation to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible. Understanding the mediation process, getting clear about your position on each issue to be negotiated, gathering the necessary financial documents, and preparing mentally to have an open mind are all steps we recommend to our clients gearing up for mediation.
Prepare for Mediation
Learning about the mediation process is a great way to set reasonable expectations and ease any nerves you may be experiencing leading up to it. While each mediator will have their own way of operating, all mediations typically follow the same general procedures.
Mediation usually begins with introductory remarks by the mediator that establishes ground rules and expectations. The parties and their attorneys will usually then separate into caucuses. The mediator will go back and forth between each party to learn of their positions and begin facilitating negotiations on each relevant issue.
Depending on the complexity and number of issues at hand, mediation can take anywhere from a few hours up to several days. It typically takes longer than expected, but the duration depends highly on each party’s willingness to participate, negotiate in good faith, and compromise where needed.
If agreements are made, the mediator can draw up a Settlement Agreement for the parties to sign and file with the court. If agreements cannot be reached during mediation, the parties are then left with continuing the litigation and going to court.
Confidential Mediation Memorandum
Going into mediation, it’s important to have a solid understanding of your own position on each issue to be discussed and hopefully resolved during mediation. Matters regarding parenting time, legal decision-making, and child support for your minor children; spousal maintenance; the division of assets and debts; etc. will be addressed during the mediation and it would be advantageous for you to know where you stand on each relevant issue and how that position affects your overall picture. These decisions will impact the rest of your life, so this is a very important step in the process.
Your attorney will prepare your Confidential Mediation Memorandum for submission to the Mediator. This Memorandum is like a position statement, it tells the Mediator how you would like to see that particular issue resolved. This document is not shared with the other side, it is only given to the Mediator to help the Mediator better understand each party’s position and to identify where there are areas for agreement and which issues might be the most difficult to resolve.
You will have the chance to review and approve the Confidential Mediation Memorandum prior to it being submitted to the Mediator. Again, the decisions reached at mediation will affect the rest of your life, this is a very important document that you want to take the time to review carefully. Your attorney will be able to help you establish reasonable expectations for the range of possible outcomes regarding the issues at hand.
Be Prepared with Financial Statements and Calculations
The financial aspects of a marital or familial dispute taking place through mediation can often be complicated and time-consuming. There are a few items you must come prepared with or have readily available to you that will expedite negotiations with the opposing party. Your mediator may request specific documents before or during the date of your first mediation session. Staying organized will speed up that process, and it will never hurt you to be prepared.
In the state of Arizona, each party is required to prepare and file an Affidavit of Financial Information (AFI), which outlines each party’s respective income and living expenses. Completing your AFI before mediation and having it readily available during the session will prove invaluable during negotiations regarding finances, such as child support and/or spousal maintenance.
Along with your AFI, you will want to come to mediation prepared with financial statements such as bank statements, brokerage statements, credit card statements, insurance declarations, and proof of ownership such as deeds or titles to properties or vehicles. You will also need to bring proof of income in the form of tax returns, W-2s, 1099s, and/or paystubs. These documents can be printed out or simply available online—the best format by which to provide those documents is whichever format will allow you to quickly and easily access them during your mediation.
If child support is an issue that will be addressed at your mediation, preparing calculations ahead of time will be very helpful so that you know the range of possible outcomes going into your mediation. Arizona uses specific calculations to determine the amount of child support depending on the parties’ financial circumstances and parenting time orders. Completing these calculations ahead of time and bringing them with you to your mediation can help speed up the process of negotiating child support in your family law matter.
Keep an Open Mind
Going into mediation, it’s very important to remember that the purpose of mediation is to negotiate all issues pertaining to your legal matter to bring the case to a close. That doesn’t mean that every issue will be resolved exactly the way you want it, but at the end of the day, you will hopefully be leaving the mediation with an agreement that works and puts the stress of the litigation behind you.
Mediation is a wonderful tool and can often lead to highly successful outcomes for both parties that can last for years but remember: the spirit of mediation is compromise, and resolution without compromise is atypical.
If each party is willing to negotiate their respective positions with some wiggle room, they will be far more likely to reach a global resolution during mediation and avoid necessitating litigation. It will serve you greatly to enter into the mediation process prepared to negotiate all issues with an open mind.
Having My Lawyer at Mediation
Attending mediation can certainly be scary, but with competent counsel to guide you, there is no need to fear. Your attorney will walk you through each step of the process, including identifying your critical documents and preparing your Confidential Mediation Memorandum.
Our team of attorneys at Owens & Perkins is highly experienced in representing clients in divorce or family law mediation, and our attorneys also serve as mediators. To learn how you can prepare for and increase your chances of success at mediation in your case, contact us by clicking here or by calling our office at 480.994.8824 to schedule your FREE 30-minute consultation.