10 BASIC STEPS FOR PREPARING FOR DIVORCE MEDIATION
1. Hire a mediator: The mediator should be a neutral third-party professional
who is trained in conflict resolution and has experience in mediating divorce cases. The chosen mediator should be agreed upon by all parties. If the parties cannot jointly agree upon a mediator, then the Court may select one for you (assuming an action is pending before the Court).
2. Gather Relevant Information: Each party should gather all of the relevant information related to the divorce such as financial documents, property titles, as well as debt information.
3. Identify Goals and Priorities: Before attending the mediation session(s), each party should identify their goals and priorities and determine what they want to achieve from the mediation.
4. Create an Agenda: Each of the parties should create a detailed agenda for the mediation, which should outline the issues to be discussed and the preferred order in which they will be addressed. i.e.: custody/visitation; sale/vacating the marital home; division of personal property, etc.
5. Be Prepared to Negotiate: Divorce mediation involves negotiation and both parties should be prepared to give and take. Each party should think about their priorities and be willing to compromise on other issues keeping in mind that mediation is a process where the mediator is the facilitator for the self-driven desired results of the parties.
6. Stay Calm and Respectful: Emotions tend to run high during a divorce, but it is really important to remain calm and respectful during the mediation. Yelling, being aggressive, or shedding tears will not help the situation and may only make things worse.
7. Have Realistic Expectations: It is important to have realistic expectations about the outcome of the mediation. The parties should be prepared to make some concessions or be creative in reaching results as mediation is designed to resolve issues so that the parties can move forward with an understanding of future expectations.
8. Bring Support: The parties are usually given an option to bring a person for emotional support and to help them stay focused. However, the emotional support person will be subject to any confidentiality agreements that are required to be executed by the participants and should not be brought simply because they can be antagonistic or intimidating to the opposing side.
9. Hire a Review Attorney: The parties should each be prepared to hire a separate “review attorney” to review any agreements that are reached during mediation. The role of the “review attorney” is not to undo the hard work by the parties and the mediator during mediation. The “review attorney” is to protect the party's interests by making sure that all issues that need to be covered in the “Marital Settlement Agreement” appear therein, that discussions were held during mediation, and that the party understands the agreement reached and the consequences that may arise therefrom. A “review attorney” can be hired at any time during the mediation process, including assisting a party in the selection of the mediator.
10. Follow Through: Once an agreement is reached and a marital settlement agreement is executed by the parties the participants are expected to abide by the agreement. If any issues arise, because it wasn't addressed or there is a dispute as to the meaning of any clauses contained in the marital settlement agreement, those issues should be addressed in subsequent mediation sessions or if it is believed to be a futile exercise it should be addressed through the legal system.
* Glenn P. Milgraum, Esq., APM, has over 35 years of experience handling Family Matters. Mr. Milgraum is a rostered mediator in New York and
New Jersey for Divorce and Family
matters (including those involving “domestic abuse” and “inter-personal violence”). He is an active member of NJAPM (New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators), has earned the designation of an “Accredited Professional Mediator” (APM), and is a Member of NJAPM’s Board of Directors.