Whether you have been ordered to mediation or have decided to attend mediation voluntarily, keep in mind that knowing where you want to “end up” is key to mediation success.
You must have a complete understanding of your options (what are the issues that relate to custody, what is “final decision making,” can I afford to buy another home or do I need to rent, what about the marital home, how to we address our debts, and about a few dozen more issues). In other words, having a complete picture of not only what the issues to discuss are but what your feeling may be with regard to how these items get resolved MUST be considered and addressed before you walk into the mediation room.
As a simple 8 step prep list, here is what I have found has been helpful to those who have asked me what I see in mediation that conveys the difference between those parties that are prepared and those that are not.
1. KNOW YOUR FINANCIAL PICTURE
Not only what the two of you own but what you owe and how to best divide these assets and liabilities to yours and the other parties’ satisfaction. What does that look like to you but more importantly, to them? What are the support issues?
2. SPEND 25% OF YOUR PREP TIME ON WHAT YOU WANT
Then spend the other 75% of your time focusing on what you believe they want.
3. UNDERSTAND CUSTODY
What are the components of legal custody and physical custody? Know what these mean and what your options are before mediation, not during.
4. PLAN TO LIMIT EMOTIONAL NEGOTIATIONS
If you see the components of the upcoming mediation from strictly an emotional stance, think about participating in the mediation…..at a different date and time.
5. MAKE A LIST - CHECK IT TWICE
Be sure that you cover all of the issues that are important to you.
6. OFFER CREATIVE SOLUTIONS
To the other side and the mediator that can help everyone resolve a contentious issue. We have come up with incredible and wonderful answers to questions in mediations that came to fruition simply by working together against the issue, not against each other.
7. STRATEGIZE WITH YOUR ATTORNEY
Plan on starting the mediation from a position of honesty and forthright negotiation. Offer to the other side that you are willing to consider any and all options and that you are motivated to settle goes a long way in providing the perception to them that you are going to negotiate in good faith. Also remember the key to strategy in mediation: no one gets everything they want.
8. DON’T BE IN A RUSH
Many time parties and their attorneys will appear at mediation with a limited time constraint, or with the thought that since there are perceivably very few issues that the session will be quick. Don’t be fooled. Take your time. Book a second mediation session if the first session did not allow for a full and complete conclusion to matters relevant to your situation. And … never ever ever go past 8 or so hours in a single session unless you continue to make solid, smart and informed decisions.