Any documents you sign or promises you make during divorce mediation have the potential to become legally binding. Orientation day involves far more than just introductions.
Uncertainty does not make divorce any easier. It’s important to show up focused and prepared.
This quick guide will help you gather the necessary documents and prepare a list of important questions to ask.
Pre-Orientation Best Practices
The best way to prepare for your orientation is to learn everything you can about how your specific mediation venue operates.
Ask for any informational pamphlets they may have, and try to collect all of the necessary forms beforehand. Some mediation centers provide all of their orientation paperwork online so that participants can get a head start.
You’ll also need to begin collecting all of the domestic and financial paperwork you can find: bank statements, tax returns, legal orders, school schedules, credit card statements, utility bills, etc.
Draft a sample divorce agreement to demonstrate your needs and desires and be prepared to show proof that justifies your requests. Prepare any relevant statements from therapists or counselors.
Call the mediation center with any questions you may have. Write down a list of any questions left unanswered so you can ask the mediator directly.
You may want to find out what happens if you cannot reach an agreement with your spouse, or ask how long you will have to change the mediation papers after the initial filing.
The Attorney Question
Many couples worry about whether or not to bring an attorney. Some mediators will discourage the participation of attorneys (mediation is cooperative, not competitive).
Even if lawyer attendance is discouraged, you should still consider having an attorney review any potentially binding documents before you sign.
Every jurisdiction is different. You may benefit from hiring an attorney with experience in the jurisdiction of your divorce case.
Any given San Diego family law specialist, for example, has likely worked with nearly every mediator and judge in the county and has connections to local child support advocates and financial experts as well.
Even if you live far away from your divorce venue, the advantage of a local attorney is well worth the cost of travel. We suggest consulting with your attorney prior to the orientation session so you can prepare for any surprises your jurisdiction may hold.
Remember – mediation is all about cooperation, and no agreement will pass through unless both parties can agree on the terms or unless the mediation process fails and goes to court.
If you have reason to believe your spouse may hide certain assets or exaggerate expenses, stay vigilant and disclose those concerns as soon as possible even if the judge has already signed off on the agreements.
Mediation is a great resource for divorcing couples who want to avoid the impersonality and finality of a battle in court.
Mediation offers divorcees the ability to come to their own agreements and control their own financial and domestic futures. The orientation is just the first step but it can be the beginning of something better.
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Rachel is a home make who likes to blog in her free time. She is actively involved in discussion on various online forums related to marriage and divorce.