During divorce mediation, couples come together with a third party to collaborate on solutions to complex problems. Your conversation is as unique as your marriage. The items you discuss and the terms you set are defined by your goals, relationship, and partner's needs.
While mediation conversations typically last hours, it can take you days to prepare. The more work you do in advance, the better. You should be able to walk into your conversation knowing what you will and won't accept.
What topics will come up in divorce mediation?
Anything blocking the smooth progression of your divorce is an appropriate discussion topic. The point of contention doesn't have to be huge to be important. Some couples can spend hours talking about things others could pass right by.
Here are some topics to think about as you prepare for your mediation meeting:
More than 40% of family households have children younger than 18 living with them. Divorcing couples must decide the following:
- Where their children will live
- When children will visit the other party
- Where children will spend vacations and holidays
- Who will make legal decisions for the children
- Whether one party should pay the other child support
Any or all of these topics could be useful to discuss in divorce mediation.
Houses and rentals
More than 66% of Americans own their homes. Some have more than one home, and others have rental properties. Real estate can be incredibly valuable, and often, people have deep attachments to the spaces in which they live.
You could devise fair agreements for your properties in mediation, including plans allowing you to share vacation homes and rental income. Bringing documents to the conversation, such as appraisals and rental agreements, can help you discuss items openly.
Many states have no legal cap on spousal support payments. Without a firm agreement, you could end up spending a lot every month to support your spouse. Mediation can help you come to an agreement that seems fair and equitable to both parties, and you can document those plans and file them with the courts.
We all form emotional attachments to the items that fill our homes. Couples can argue over things like these:
- Wedding presents
- Ski equipment
Even beloved pets fit into this category.
If you both want the same thing in the divorce, mediation could be incredibly helpful. You could find a way to split the asset fairly.
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What should you ask before it starts?
Preparation is an important part of the mediation process. You can gather documents and statements to support your position, but it's also important to perform a deep inventory of what you have and what you want.
These are three good questions to ask yourself before the meeting starts:
1. What do I want?
Think about the question you're trying to answer in your mediation. What must you have before you can say "yes" to any proposal or counterproposal?
Mediations are negotiations that involve give and take. You shouldn't enter the discussion with a firm and inflexible plan. But you should have a good idea about what you will and won't accept in any conversation about the topic at hand.
It’s also a good idea to map out points on which you can be more flexible so you’ll know where to bend. If you think it through beforehand, you won’t feel strong-armed into a decision you’re not comfortable with.
2. What does the other party want?
You could answer this question by thinking about your partner. But you could also think about your children, your parents, or other interested parties. Can you see the benefits of appeasing them?
3. What happens if we can't agree?
Some mediation sessions don't end in a settlement. Think hard about what might happen next.
Consider whether you can afford the cost of litigation, and think about how long it might take you to get divorced and what kind of stress the process would bring. Sometimes, these consequences are severe enough that they entice you to agree with the other party.
ReferencesU.S. Family Households with Children by Family Type 1970 to 2021. (December 2022). Statista.
Married Couple Homeownership. (April 2022). National Association of Home Builders.
How Bread-Winning Women Are Driving Alimony Reform. (November 2015). Reuters.
How Can the Legal Professional Increase Party Satisfaction with the Mediation Process (Whether or Not a Settlement Was Reached)? (July 2019). American Arbitration Association.
Preparing for a Mediation. United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.