Divorce mediation checklist: Preparing for a successful mediation

If you’re going through divorce mediation, this checklist may help you prepare for a successful mediation process.

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What's Inside

Key takeaways

  • Preparing for divorce mediation in advance may increase the odds of an early, amicable and cost-effective resolution to your divorce.
  • To most effectively use your time in mediation sessions, reflect on your goals, priorities and potential settlement resolutions before your first session.
  • Bring any documents and materials that may be useful to your divorce mediation.

Divorce mediation can be an important part of the divorce process. If the parties are willing, they can work together toward reaching a mutually agreeable resolution to their divorce. And even if they can’t resolve every issue, they often can find agreement on some or most of the terms of their divorce. This may save both parties time and money in the long run.

To make their sessions with the mediator productive, many people find it beneficial to prepare ahead of time. This two-part divorce mediation checklist discusses how to prepare for divorce mediation and what steps you can expect throughout the process. 

How to prepare for divorce mediation

Preparing for divorce mediation may lead to a smoother and more productive process. It may also increase the chances of a fair and satisfactory resolution for both parties.

When making your divorce mediation checklist, consider some or all of the following steps to effectively get ready for mediation. 

Reflect on your goals and priorities

Before you do anything, stop and take some time to solidify your goals and priorities for the potential divorce settlement. When it comes to what to ask for in a divorce mediation, parties often address matters such as: 

Think through each of these items that applies to your divorce, as well as anything else that matters to you. By clarifying your objectives ahead of time, you can better articulate your needs and primary concerns during the mediation process.

Prepare a pre-mediation statement

A pre-mediation statement—sometimes called a confidential settlement statement or mediation statement—is a written document that outlines your perspective on the issues to be addressed during the mediation. Such a statement may also include an overview of your goals and desired outcomes. 

The statement allows you to effectively communicate your position to the mediator before mediation begins. It helps to streamline the process so that the parties may focus their discussion on key areas of disagreement. 

Pro tip: Although a pre-mediation statement typically isn’t required, it may be a helpful tool to create and bring with you. 

Gather and organize materials for the mediation

During divorce mediation sessions, it’s common to use and present documents to the mediator to help them understand the situation and address issues of the divorce. Consider gathering and organizing any materials you may use ahead of time so you can easily access them.

Below are some examples of materials to put on your divorce mediation checklist that might be beneficial to have on hand: 

  • Tax returns
  • Bank statements
  • Paychecks 
  • Investment accounts
  • Mortgage documents

Pro tip: It’s generally better to be overprepared rather than underprepared. So err on the side of bringing more information to mediation. It’s better to have things you don’t end up using than not to have a document available when needed.

What to expect in divorce mediation

The precise steps in the divorce mediation process vary from case to case and mediator to mediator. Below are some common steps to give you a better idea of what to expect. 

1. Introduction and process overview

Divorce mediation typically begins with an introduction by the mediator, who explains the purpose, guidelines and ground rules of the mediation process. The introduction usually also includes a discussion of the voluntary nature of mediation and the role of the mediator as a neutral and unbiased facilitator and guide in the process. 

2. Factual background and information gathering

Next, the parties typically have an opportunity to provide background information about their marriage, family dynamics, financial situation and the primary issues requiring resolution. This step helps ensure that the mediator clearly understands the parties’ circumstances so they can effectively help them work toward a resolution.

3. Discussion of each spouse’s needs and goals

Once the mediator has a general understanding of the parties’ background, each spouse has an opportunity to express their particular needs, concerns, goals and desired outcomes for the divorce settlement

The mediator may discuss these things with both parties. Alternatively, depending on the level of animosity between the parties and their preferences, the mediator may have a separate discussion with each spouse. This often leads to more open conversation since there tends to be less fear of pressure or undue influence from having a spouse in the same room. 

4. Negotiation

Next, the parties typically negotiate to reach mutually acceptable terms regarding their divorce. The mediator’s role during this time is to help facilitate these conversations by encouraging compromise and exploring creative solutions to address the needs and goals of both parties as closely as possible. 

Pro tip: Many times, the spouses don’t feel like they “win” in mediation, as give and take is often necessary to find common ground. However, reaching a mutually agreeable divorce settlement allows the parties to avoid additional time, expense and stress associated with lengthy litigation. So try to keep the bigger picture in mind during mediation.

5. Drafting of settlement agreement

If both parties reach an agreement on all disputed issues, the mediator assists them in drafting an agreement that outlines the terms of the divorce settlement. Once both spouses have finalized and signed the document, the parties may submit the divorce settlement to the court for approval. 

Sometimes, the parties may agree on only some, but not all, terms of the divorce. In these cases, the settlement agreement will address only the agreed-upon terms. If the parties can’t reach an agreement on the remaining terms before trial, the judge will determine the rest. Note, however, that not all jurisdictions permit partial divorce settlements.

How a divorce lawyer may help

Some spouses who choose divorce mediation hire a divorce lawyer to help. An experienced attorney can: 

  • Provide legal advice and guidance
  • Help you compile and organize useful materials to bring to mediation
  • Help you prepare a confidential mediation statement
  • Represent your interests and advocate on your behalf in mediation

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Frequently asked questions

When is divorce mediation not recommended?

For many, divorce mediation may be a useful dispute resolution tool. However, it may not be helpful in certain situations. This may include where the parties can’t cooperate and communicate amicably, where there’s a significant power imbalance between the parties or where there’s a history of abuse or safety concerns.

How much does divorce mediation cost?

The cost of divorce mediation can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. The cost varies depending on several factors. This includes the complexity of the issues involved, the number of mediation sessions required, the length of the mediation(s), the level of cooperation between the parties and the mediator’s fees.

How long does divorce mediation take?

In short, it varies. Divorce mediation sessions often last between two to eight hours, depending on the complexity of the case and the level of cooperation of the parties. However, mediation may take less or more time. It’s also common for parties to have multiple mediation sessions.

What are the five steps of mediation?

Divorce mediation often involves the following steps: introductions and an overview of the process with the mediator, information gathering, discussion of each party’s goals and priorities, negotiation between the parties, and drafting and finalization of the settlement agreement (if applicable). However, there’s no set mediation procedure. The precise steps may vary from case to case.

What happens in the first divorce mediation meeting?

The first mediation session usually sets the tone and foundation for the mediation process. During this session, the mediator typically explains the process and their role, works with the parties to identify the underlying issues and discusses each spouse’s goals and desired outcomes. After that, the parties can begin negotiating potential terms for their divorce settlement with the mediator.

Disclaimer: This article is provided as general information, not legal advice, and may not reflect the current laws in your state. It does not create an attorney-client relationship and is not a substitute for seeking legal counsel based on the facts of your circumstance. No reader should act based on this article without seeking legal advice from a lawyer licensed in their state.

This page includes links to third party websites. The inclusion of third party websites is not an endorsement of their services.

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