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Divorce Mediation Checklist

 

Just as you prepared for your wedding day, it's wise to set aside time to prepare for your divorce mediation. The work you do in advance can help you feel calm, and the more information you offer, the better you can make your case to your partner as you negotiate the terms of your divorce. 

4 things to bring to divorce mediation 

Before your divorce mediation, you'll fill out paperwork about your divorce. You may also have private conversations with your mediator about who you are and what you want. This doesn't negate the need to bring items to your mediation. 

Critical documents to bring to your divorce mediation include the following:

  • Court files: By this stage in your divorce, you've filed several official forms and given financial information to your spouse. Bring all of these items with you so you can discuss your case and your legal status.
  • Debt-related data: Credit card bills, mortgage information, auto loans, and other paperwork involving what you owe should come with you to the mediation. Bring check stubs to help you explain how much you can pay.
  • Asset receipts: Any paperwork you can find about the items you own as a married couple should come with you to the meeting. 
  • Monthly expenses: Documents that help shed light on your family’s budget could be very helpful in your discussions. Things like rental agreements, utility bills, school bills, and food expenses are all important. 

What do couples discuss in mediation? 

Mediation is designed to help couples work through difficult divorce issues without entering a courtroom. Some people have multiple items to work through, while others need to work through just one or two problems. 

These are among the most common topics couples discuss: 

Child custody 

Three in four couples have children together. When these parents split apart, they must discuss where the children will live and when they'll visit the other party. These can be contentious conversations. 

Child support 

Federal laws allow states to create their own child support rules. And in many courts, judges have the ability to shift payments up or down depending on a family's circumstances. Plenty of money is at stake, and it's common for couples to argue about how much is too much. 

Prepare to discuss anything that makes your child's support needs higher or lower than usual, such as these:

  • Childcare arrangements
  • High medical bills 
  • School fees 
  • College plans 

Spousal support 

More than 390,000 people receive spousal support. Payments are designed to help the lower-earning spouse retain a comfortable standard of living after the divorce. 

Determining how much that payment should be involves a discussion of the following:

  • Current household bills 
  • Incomes of both spouses
  • One party's contributions to the other's education or professional license 
  • Length of the marriage 

Assets 

Couples must split their estate into two parts during the divorce. Items with plenty of value (like boats), strong emotional attachments (like houses), or uncertain ownership (like retirement accounts) should all be discussed in detail. 

Free download: Property Division Spreadsheet

Debts

Any money you borrowed as a couple must be paid back. These bills can be tied to very strong emotions, especially if a partner borrowed money the other didn't know anything about. Resolving these issues in mediation can take time and effort. 

How to prepare for divorce mediation 

Before your mediation starts, ask your mediator about the following things: 

  • Critical documents: Tell your mediator about the items you've already collected, and find out if others are helpful. 
  • Frameworks: How will the process work? How long will it take? Can we fill out legal documents at the end?
  • Location: Where will the mediation happen? Is the room warm or cold? Will you have food or drinks available?

Next, think about your goals for the conversation. If you can, sketch out your ideas in general terms. When the conversation starts, you’ll have a good idea of the outcomes you’ll accept. 

Completing divorce mediation 

All of your preparation should help you walk into your mediation feeling confident. Remember that you can ask for breaks at any point you lose your equilibrium. And try to stay as calm and focused on the future as you can.

To help you prepare even more, download this checklist. In it, we've compiled our best ideas involving preparing for a mediation.

References

 Just the Two of Us: 1 in 4 Couples Opt to Never Have Kids. (June 2021). Study Finds. 
 Child Support Payments Vary Widely from State to State. (June 2019). CBS News. 
 The Percentage of Men Awarded Spousal Support Increasing. (August 2016). Divorce Magazine.
 California Court-Connected Mediation: Appreciating the Influence of Power and Processes. (September 2014). Journal of Child Custody.