Divorce Mediation Checklist
Mediation is one of the ideal legal approaches available to divorcing couples to arrive at a common ground on various issues of potential conflict with the help and guidance of a professional mediator. Mediation avoids most of the challenges and hurdles involved in litigation, and most importantly, it lets you control the outcome and not the court.
You and the other party get an opportunity to decide what works best for you and your children, and chances are that you will achieve more satisfactory results than you can expect to have from a court-ordered divorce.
However, to make the most of your mediation process and ensure that it proceeds professionally and speedily, it is vital to come to the mediation session thoroughly prepared. Here is a comprehensive divorce mediation checklist that will help ensure that you don’t miss out on anything pertinent to the process.
List of Documents
- Biographical information for both parties (name, address, contact details, date of marriage, employment status, and annual gross income)
- Bank statements showing the current balance (including all bank accounts, such as savings, checking, CDs, and money markets)
- Current balance statements for all stocks, bonds, and other financial investments
- Statements related to any unpaid loans, or written or verbal agreements related to loan repayments where one or both parties have been listed as a creditor
- Current balance statements for children’s accounts, such as CDs, 529 plans or custodial college savings plans
- Year, make, and model of any motor vehicles owned by either party and a statement of value determined as per Kelly Blue Book
- Documents relating to any pending claim in a civil lawsuit which has been filed by either or both parties to the divorce
- Current statements of all retirement accounts belonging to each party, such as company pension plans, 401Ks, 403(b)s, 457 Thrift Saving Plans, Traditional and Roth IRAs, and TIAA-CREF. An actuary may have to be involved to assess some of the plans to determine their present market value.
- Statement related to any additional employment benefits, such as cash incentives, stock options, or a golden parachute plan
- Statement about personal property, mentioning the estimated market value of the household items, jewelry, art and antiques, and any other articles of significant value. Where the parties may not be able to find agreement on a particular item’s value, a professional appraiser may have to be involved.
- Current market value appraisal report for any pieces of real estate owned by either or both parties, including the primary residence, vacation home, timeshares, investment properties, and offshore real estate.
- Current market value appraisal report for any businesses owned by either or both parties
- Copies of pay stubs or income statements of both parties for the last six months of all W-2 or 1099 employment
- Current balance statements for any mortgages, home equity loans, or lines of credit that are held for an owned property
- Current balance statements for any auto loans
- Current credit card balance statements
- Current balance statements for any loans that are privately held, either based on a written note or verbal statement, where either or both parties are listed as a debtor
- Current balance statements for student loans, if any, for either or both parties
- Documents related to an unsettled civil lawsuit claim where either or both parties have been listed as defendants
- Copy of the information page of life insurance policy documents, if held by either or both parties, and a cash relinquishment value statement of any whole life or universal insurance plans
- Copy of the information page of any disability coverage held by either or both parties
- Copies of the last three years of corporate tax returns where either or both parties are business owners
- Copies of the last years of state and federal income tax returns and the related W-2 or 1099 statements
- Copy of the marriage certificate
- Copy of any pre- or post-marital contracts that is currently effective, such as a pre- or post-nuptial agreement
- Copies of any wills made during the marriage
- Copies of any trust documents
If you believe that the other party (your ex-spouse) during the mediation has not presented the complete or accurate documents, you should be prepared to raise this concern with the mediator during the session.
An experienced mediator attorney will address all such concerns in a professional, impartial, and agreeable manner while accommodating the viewpoints and arguments of both sides. While document collection is critical to your divorce mediation, it is equally important that each item is assessed by the mediator for its authenticity and accurate value.
In addition to the documentation, here are other items that should be a part of your divorce mediation checklist:
Child Custody Checklist
Child custody is going to be one of the most sensitive areas where mediation can prove to be far more helpful than a court-ordered custody plan. The two critical aspects to child custody that must be addressed during your divorce mediation include:
- Physical custody: This relates to the actual time your children will be spending with each co-parent. A seasoned mediator will try to keep the child’s best interests ahead of the parents’ interests and accommodate issues such as day-to-day schedules as well as holidays, summer breaks, extra-curricular activities, and birthdays.
- Legal custody: This refers to the issue of whether one or both co-parents will make decisions related to important areas such as the child’s education, medical issues, and religious and cultural issues. Legal custody is often shared between both co-parents.
Spousal Support Checklist
If you and the other party are unable to mutually agree upon whether spousal support or alimony needs to be paid, and if yes, how much would be a fair amount to be and for how long, your mediator will help resolve these issues. You should focus on addressing the following key areas in this regard during your divorce mediation:
- What will be the amount of spousal support
- For how long the spousal support payments will be made
- Whether paying a one-time lump sum amount is a feasible option
- What will be the mode of payment and the date of payment
- Are there any life insurance or health insurance implications
Child Support Checklist
In most cases, both co-parents are expected to contribute to the child’s upbringing, regardless of which parent gets the physical custody of the child. Your mediator will go by the state’s child support calculation guidelines to determine the amount of child support that the non-custodial parent must pay.
However, depending on your specific situation, you may be able to negotiate or lower or higher child support amount that what the guidelines prescribe. The key issues to address during your divorce mediation would include:
- What is the amount of child support the non-custodial parent should pay?
- Who pays for the child’s education expenses?
- Who pays for the child’s medical insurance?
- Who pays for the child’s healthcare expenses not covered by insurance?
- Who gets the benefit from the life insurance policies?
- Who gets the benefit of tax deductions?
- Who pays for the child’s extra-curricular activities, class trips, birthday parties, and hobbies?
Property Division Checklist
When dividing marital assets and debts, it’s paramount to ensure that your rights are fully protected. An experienced mediator will make sure the division is fair while accommodating for the reasonable requests of both parties. Make sure the following issues are thoroughly addressed during your divorce mediation:
- Valuation of the marital home
- Accounting for property expenses, including mortgage payments, property taxes and insurance, and utility bills
- Household articles, furnishings, jewelry, art, and antiques
- Savings accounts, checking accounts, offshore accounts if any
- Retirement accounts
- Stocks and bonds
- Business assets, including intellectual property and goodwill
- Personal debts
- Legal expenses
- A plan to resolve any future property-related disputes
Work with a Seasoned Divorce Mediation Attorney
Mediation is an excellent way to resolve all challenging issues related to your divorce. However, the key to success lies in choosing a reliable and experienced divorce mediation lawyer that will help you and the other party arrive a fair resolution of all issues in an expedient, non-confrontational manner.
A mediation agreement that satisfies both spouses on all accounts will be in the best long-term interests of you and your children and will help you move on towards a positive and secure future. Contact a dedicated divorce mediation attorney today.