Here is what you need to do to get the best possible divorce settlement in mediation:
- Hire an experienced attorney.
- Be thorough about your post-divorce finances.
- Create a parenting plan that ensures your child’s best interests.
- Be reasonable.
When divorcing spouses opt for voluntary mediation, it implies that they have mutually resolved many issues, and all that may be remaining may be a few sticky points related to alimony, child custody, child support, or property distribution. Mediation can also be mandated. Some states require spouses to undergo a mandatory mediation process if the case is contested. Whether mediation is voluntary or mandated, here is what you should do to ensure the best possible divorce settlement from the process:
1. Hire An Experienced Attorney
First and foremost, hire an experienced attorney who:
- Has a successful track record of resolving divorce cases amicably, before the trial stage
- Has resolved cases that are similar to yours – by mediation
- Believes in resolving divorce cases peacefully and in a cordial manner
- Can demonstrate how he has successfully handled divorce mediation cases
- Is part of a firm that is focused on family law
- Has received first-rate and genuine client testimonials
Such an experienced divorce attorney can use his negotiation and persuasion skills to help you resolve the case quickly to your satisfaction – sometimes in just one single mediation session!
Being thorough about your post-divorce finances implies that you make sure that:
- You know everything about your spouse’s monthly income and properties, including ESOPs and intangible assets such as brand value or goodwill.
- You have a list of the separate properties of both spouses (such property is not distributed upon divorce).
- You have copies of important financial documents such as bank account statements, investment statements, brokerage (list of stocks owned), retirement fund documents, credit card statements, mortgage deeds, loan statements, tax returns, etc.
- Your spouse cannot transfer funds without your knowledge – so, if you have joint accounts and suspect your spouse of withdrawing your share, consult your lawyer on how and when to withdraw your share and inform your spouse about it.
- You are aware of the taxes you may have to pay on the division/sale of any marital property and your post-divorce monthly income.
- You have created a post-divorce budget that accounts for all sources of income, approximate monthly income, and monthly expenses. Take inflation into account while preparing this budget because commodity prices are going through the roof these days and inflation is spiking hard.
- You know exactly how the divorce settlement will impact you, and your child’s future.
- You have updated the beneficiaries in your will, bank account, investment account, etc.
- You are aware of the state’s laws and know how much you will get or pay (approximately) as alimony and child support.
- You don’t get emotionally attached to any assets – remember that there will be some give and take during mediation and that you are likely to get things that are rightfully due to you, not necessarily the things that you may be wanting.
If you are thorough with your finances, your spouse will get the message that he/she cannot negotiate you out of any income or asset that you rightfully deserve.
3. Create A Parenting Plan That Ensures Your Child’s Best Interests
Ensure that you create a parenting plan that:
- Proves that the parents are physically and mentally fit to take care of your child
- Ensures that the child will not be inconvenienced in any manner while shuttling between parents’ homes
- Ensures that the child will live in a safe, qualitative, stable, and secure home and has adequate space
- Proves that the parents have adequate finances to care for the child, operate the home, and more
- Shows that you are being fair to the other parent
- Proves that the child will receive guidance and emotional support from both the parents
- Proves that the child’s needs and comforts will be taken care of
- Proves that the child will continue to receive the love and care of both parents
The parenting plan is normally drafted by the attorneys with inputs from the parents. It is a joint document, and as the spouses are likely to agree with its terms, they should present a robust plan to the mediator. There may be a few issues remaining to be resolved, and these may be discussed when the mediation begins, and the parenting plan can be redrafted in between the mediation breaks or sessions. Usually, the parents agree on the parenting plan before the mediation begins.
4. Be Reasonable
Mediation is a legal but non-binding process that is conducted in an informal setting. Moreover, spouses who opt for mediation may already have agreed on many contentious issues. In such an informal and friendly environment, it pays to be reasonable with demands, and be ready for some give and take, to complete the divorce cordially.