Divorce is at its lowest rate in 40 years. This is good news, but divorce, particularly among younger couples, is far from gone. It is estimated that more than two million individuals were involved in divorce proceedings during 2017 alone. Traditional divorces are expensive, contentious, and difficult for everyone involved – especially children. Thankfully, divorce mediation offers another option. Find out what to expect during the divorce mediation process below and use our handy divorce mediation checklist to make sure you are prepared.
What to Expect During the Divorce Mediation Process
No two divorces are the same. They vary based on a host of factors, including why the partners want to divorce, whether there are children involved, the assets and financial health of both partners, and much more. Even within the larger umbrella of divorce law, there are different types. These include fault and no-fault, contested and uncontested, and collaborative divorce.
Despite the wide range of divorces, the divorce mediation process is largely the same. It begins with both partners hiring a single, neutral mediator. Divorce mediators are third-party individuals, normally attorneys or former judges, who work with all involved parties to reach an amicable outcome.
After finding your divorce mediator, the mediation process begins in earnest. It can be broadly broken down into four stages – information gathering, framing, negotiation, and conclusion.
The Four Stages
Information gathering is, as the name suggests, when the divorce mediator begins to get the paperwork needed to proceed. They will likely request copies of all individual and joint financial documents, and any other relevant legal documents. This stage also involves the divorce mediator providing important legal information – your state’s laws as they apply to child custody, for example – and summarizing both you and your partner’s positions and wishes for the divorce.
Framing is the part of the divorce mediation process in which the mediator works with each partner to list their needs and interests. These include the reasons you are divorcing and the outcomes you would like to see. Putting these on paper, as well as clarifying them in each partner’s mind, helps prepare for the negotiation stage.
Negotiation is what you may typically think of as occurring during mediation. This is when the divorce mediator sits down with both parties and facilitates an agreement between their individual needs and interests.
Although this stage sounds overwhelming, mediation offers several distinct benefits to a traditional, courtroom approach. The entire divorce mediation process is confidential, so there is no potential embarrassment. This also means your children will not need to testify or be subjected to any painful courtroom proceedings. Due to the confidential nature of mediation, all parties are more likely to be open and honest while negotiating. This helps the divorce mediator reach a mutually beneficial outcome. Finally, mediation is often quicker than traditional divorce. It is also less expensive.
The final stage of the divorce mediation process is the conclusion. This is when you, your partner, and your divorce mediator draft a settlement agreement. It can include guidelines on child custody, child support payments, visitation, and division of assets.
Now that you know what to expect during the mediation process itself, let’s take a look at a helpful divorce mediation checklist.
Your Divorce Mediation Checklist
Your divorce mediation checklist may look different depending on your unique circumstances. Contested divorce mediation for high net worth individuals requires things like investment valuation, while any divorce involving children will likely require information from your children’s school. Still, the following is a general guide on the types of paperwork you should prepare.
Your divorce mediation checklist should include copies of:
- Your pay stub documents – W2, 1099, etc.
- Your personal bank account and credit card information
- Any joint bank account and credit card information
- A detailed list of any debt you have individually or in the marriage (lines of credit, home loans, etc.)
- Real estate valuations
- Tax returns (personal and/or business) for the entirety of your marriage
- Any insurance documents, including life insurance
- Investment information – for both retirement accounts (401K, IRA, etc.) and non-retirement accounts (stocks, mutual funds, etc.)
- A detailed listing of any valuables you and your partner own (cars, art, jewelry, etc.)
- Articles of incorporation and other business-related documents (if either you or your partner own a business)
Shapiro Mediation is Here to Help
Divorce mediation is the most effective way to resolve all matters pertaining to your divorce. If you want to save time, money, and protect your children from a potentially difficult court battle – call Shapiro Mediation today at (339) 298-7733. Our experienced divorce mediators will help you reach a mutually beneficial agreement with your partner.