By Leslie Lorenzano
Mediation is a growing trend in many jurisdictions. Many courts are requiring parties to participate in mediation prior to engaging in litigation.
Knowing how to best prepare for mediation will provide you with the best chance of a successful outcome.
Gathering Information For Mediation
The first step to appropriately prepare for mediation is to gather the necessary information prior to the mediation session. This will include obtaining documents and information, and properly analyzing the information once it is gathered in order to summarize the issues.
The various options for collecting this documentation and information include:
- Submitting Discovery Requests to the opposing party;
- Submitting Requests for Production of Documents to a non-party (i.e. schools, medical facilities, banks, etc.);
- Obtaining a custody evaluation or mental health evaluation; or
- Completing a deposition of the opposing party or any other witness.
Once the information is gathered through these methods, your divorce attorney may prepare documents summarizing the information you have obtained.
In a dissolution of marriage case, your divorce lawyer may prepare what is called a “marital balance sheet,” which contains a list of all assets and liabilities of the marital estate. Your attorney may prepare several different balance sheets reflecting various possible divisions of property and debts for your review prior to mediation.
Similarly, if your have minor children and child support is at issue, your attorney may prepare proposed Child Support Obligation Worksheets. Again, your attorney may prepare several different scenarios for child support for your review, if certain figures regarding child support (i.e., the number of parenting time overnights per year you may have) are flexible or still at issue.
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What Are Your Mediation Goals?
After you obtain and analyze the information, you and your attorney should meet to discuss your overall goals and the best strategy for achieving those goals prior to the mediation itself.
You want to ensure you enter mediation with a clear picture of your priorities, so that you are able to evaluate any offers and counter-offers according to your stated goals.
Your attorney should review with you some various options and scenarios for settlement, so that you have some ideas on how mediation may progress throughout the day.
That being said, you should also remember to enter mediation with an open mind overall; as you engage in mediation, the mediator may propose a settlement option that is not what you expected, but still fulfills your priorities.
Selecting A Mediator
When you are preparing for mediation, you or your attorney should research the proposed mediators to ensure your selected mediator is best for your case.
Mediators all have different educational and employment backgrounds, may specialize in different areas, and all have various hourly rates and retainer requirements. Some mediators may excel at solving property issues, while others may do well with child custody and parenting time proposals.
Ultimately, you want a mediator that you feel best fits your case and will be open to listening to your side of the situation at hand.
Confidential Mediation Statement
Once you have met and strategized with your attorney, your attorney may prepare what is called a confidential mediation statement.
Where I practice, attorneys utilize mediation statements to provide background information to the mediator, as well as provide supporting legal analysis to the mediator so he or she knows your strongest arguments in court if mediation is unsuccessful.
This will help the mediator evaluate your case prior to the mediation and get ideas of where to start the negotiation process. Many mediators will allow you to attach supporting documentation to your mediation statement to help them better understand your case.
Further, if you have any type of third-party report for your case, such as a child custody evaluation, the mediation statement is an ideal opportunity to outline the findings.
Read our series of articles on mediation in divorce: