Whether you are going to attend mediation for your divorce or child custody case, you need to prepare in advance to have the best chance at a successful outcome.
The Best-Case Scenario
Your first list is your best-case scenario. This will be every single thing you want, even if you know this may be unrealistic for you. Include your ideal parenting plan schedule, the amount of support you want, and every other thing you would like to get out of the divorce or family case. If there is something you want from this divorce or custody case, no matter how small, it should go on this list. The odds that the end result of mediation will satisfy your list are very small, but you will want to keep your goals in mind as you negotiate.
Your next list is your settlement list, or what you think that should be. This, of course, is different from your best-case scenario list. Although you will go over the same issues, you are going to view them from a different perspective.
For your settlement list, go over the issues on your best-case scenario list but consider what is going to be the most fair to you, your children and your spouse or former partner. Although this list will be harder to make than the first one, it will allow you to consider whether all of your needs or wants are reasonable considering the circumstances.
The Bottom Line
Your final list is your bottom line. Go over everything on your first two lists again, but this time, indicate the absolute minimum in each area that you are willing to accept. This list is most likely going to be the hardest, but it is crucial. This list will help you set your boundaries. Those boundaries are necessary in mediation as they will prevent you from agreeing to things that hurt you or give your attorney an indication of what your bottom-line is.
Once you have made your lists, do not show them to your ex or the mediator. You should share them with your family law attorney, but they are also your study guides for the mediation in order to stay focused on what you want to acccomplish. These lists will tell you what is most important to you, what you really want and what your boundaries are.
On the day of mediation, the important thing is that you are calm and focused on your goals. Mediation is about compromise in order to accomplish a goal of settling a case. Mediation should be approached with an open mind. You should expect discomfort but focus on the positive result you are striving toward.
Keep in mind that you are not required to agree to anything in mediation. If the session was court-ordered, you are only required to attend and follow the mediator’s rules. If you feel like you need a break, ask for one. You should never feel pressured into anything other than listening and being civil during the mediation session. Remember to treat the mediator and your spouse civilly. Although it may be tough to treat your spouse in a civil manner, it will be one of the rules of the mediation.
If any agreements are made during the mediation, they should be put in writing by the mediator after the session is over. Do not sign any agreement that does not capture your actual agreement and it is always advised that you have it reviewed by your attorney. A mediator cannot give you legal advice, so it is best to have your own attorney during this process. Your attorney will help protect your rights and confirm you understand the agreement fully before signing it.