Mediation is an out of court process to resolve disputes. If you have a divorce or parentage case pending that involves minor children and you cannot agree on decision making for the children or a parenting schedule, a judge will order you to attend mediation to attempt to resolve parenting issues. You can also always voluntarily select mediation to resolve any or all other aspects of your divorce case. Mediation is always confidential and anything discussed in mediation cannot be introduced in court.
A mediator is a completely neutral facilitator. A mediator cannot give you legal advice or counsel you on how to resolve your case. The mediator’s role is to facilitate a conversation where both parties can express their needs, concerns and goals and generate options to resolve disputes. The mediator does not have the power to dictate a settlement but rather, uses skills to facilitate a meaningful discussion and open and free exchange of information between the parties fostering negotiation in a neutral and stable environment.
General Preparation – Consult with an Attorney Prior to Mediation
A crucial step in preparing for mediation is understanding the law and how it applies to your case. Prior to your mediation session, consult with an attorney who can provide this information as well as what your likely outcome would be in court and your best and worst case scenario in court. Having this information is essential for you to formulate a reasonable list of goals you would like to incorporate into an agreement. Also, having this information will prepare you to evaluate your spouse’s position.
Preparation for Mediation of Children’s Issues
The mediator’s role in child related mediation is to help the parents develop a parenting schedule that is in their children’s best interest. The more the mediator knows about your children’s day to day life and yours, the better equipped he or she will be to help you. To be prepared, bring the following information:
- Your children’s school academic calendar
- Schedule for extra-curricular activities of each child
- Information regarding any mental health, learning challenges or physical health issues your child may have and any prescription medication your child takes
- A copy of a IEP or 504 Plan if your child has either in place
- If you have a job with irregular hours, bring a copy of your work schedule
Considering the above information, the other parent’s work schedule and your proximity to each other and the children’s school, prepare a parenting schedule you think makes the most sense for your children and be prepared to explain in mediation why the schedule you suggest is in your children’s best interest.
Preparing for Mediation of Financial Issues
A mediator can most effectively assist in reaching an agreement on financial issues if he or she has all the information regarding your income, assets and debt. To be prepared, bring the following information:
- Complete and bring a Financial Affidavit (your attorney can provide this to you to fill out)
- Prior two years of your tax returns, W-2 and 1099 statements
- Your most recent pay stub
- Your most recent statement for your bank accounts, retirement accounts, investment/brokerage accounts and credit cards
Having the same income and paying for two households instead of one may have some challenges. If you are still living with your spouse, prepare a budget of what you expect your monthly expenses will be when you live separately. Also, consider your short term and long term objectives to determine which marital assets are most important to you.
Law firms offer mediation services by a family law attorney in Lake Forest, IL who is trained in mediation and skilled in identifying the needs and interests of families going through the divorce process and fostering meaningful communication leading to positive and lasting agreements.
Thanks to Hurst, Robin & Kay, LLC for their insight into family law and mediation.