Mediation Series Part II: Tips from the Mediator
In my first blog “Let’s Go To Mediation,” I defined mediation, the neutral mediator’s role in assisting parties, and the benefits of mediation. But how do you prepare for mediation and make the most of your time and money? Being prepared to mediate will increase your chances of resolving your dispute.
Organize your thoughts and prioritize your goals. Copy / download any documents you will need to assist you and the mediator and bring them with you to the mediation. All settlements are founded on two important principles: each party voluntarily agrees to the settlement terms, and each party fully discloses the income, assets and debts that comprise the settlement. Thus, you will need to have documents supporting the issues to be mediated. For example, if your checking account balance is $500, then bring in the account statement showing this amount. If child support or alimony are issues, then you will need to have available your most recent paycheck and documentation of all income, as well as other relevant documents.
Get Legal Advice.
If you do not have an attorney, then at least consult with an attorney before mediation and consider having an experienced attorney represent you in mediation. Mediator’s are not permitted to give parties legal advice, so work with an attorney before attending mediation and to discuss a settlement proposal or how to respond to one. Discuss your goals, what the law provides, and the potential result if you do not reach a settlement and instead need to have a judge determine what happens.
Keep an open mind.
Mediation is essentially a compromise. That’s the reality. Coming in to mediation with an expectation that you will “win” or get everything you want and leave your spouse / other parent with little to nothing is unrealistic and will unlikely result in a settlement. Rather, keep an open mind and be willing to listen. You just might find that you and your spouse / other parent share similar goals or would be willing to compromise for the benefit of the other, or for your children, or in an effort to end the conflict and/or litigation. Lastly, listen to the advice of your attorney if you have one.
Dan Lewis is a family law attorney and certified North Carolina Family Financial Mediator. He represents clients in cases involving child custody, child support, equitable distribution, alimony, and domestic violence. He also serves as both a private mediator and court-appointed mediator. For more information about mediation, please contact us.