1. HIRE OR CONSULT AN ATTORNEY: It might seem as if you know each and every piece about your divorce; you know about your children; and you know about the assets and liabilities. You believe that you have a good understanding of how the division should take place, what the divorce should look like, etc. It may also seem like you have a good understanding with your spouse, and all you need is to participate in Mediation and arrive at an agreement. However, sometimes, a lawyer might be able to advise you based upon a wrong assumption that you might be under, or you might have an incorrect understanding of the law. Regardless, even if you do want to participate in Mediation yourself, ensure that you make any agreement with the qualification that you will have it reviewed by an attorney of your choice. This way, you can take the agreement to an attorney and have it reviewed.
  2. BE PREPARED: This might seem simple, but a lot of parties participate in Mediation without knowing the facts. For example, do you know how much your spouse earns? Whether or not his or her income fluctuates from year to year? Have you reviewed past tax returns? Have you created a financial balance sheet? Have you distinguished between liquid assets (for example, equity in a home) versus retirement assets (for example, 401(k), pension, for which taxes have not been accounted for)? It is extremely important that before you participate in Mediation, you have all of the requisite information that you need to arrive at an agreement.
  3. RESEARCH AND PICK THE APPROPRIATE MEDIATOR: This is another avenue where an attorney might be extremely helpful. Depending upon your specific case, the selection of a mediator might be the most important decision that you make. For example, if your divorce involves complex assets, you might want to consider utilizing a mediator who has extensive experience in dealing with high net worth cases. If your case involves a business, you might want to consider utilizing someone who has a business or accounting background. Because attorneys have significant experience in dealing with mediators, they should be able to provide you with the requisite knowledge that you might need relative to selecting the appropriate mediator for your case.
  4. DO NOT SIGN THE AGREEMENT UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS: Again, this might sound simple, but once you sign off on the agreement, chances are that you cannot back out of it. The other party can bring a Motion to Enforce the agreement, and most likely, it will be upheld. Therefore, it is extremely important that you understand the agreement, what it means, and your future obligations.
  5. PREPARE FOR MEDIATION: It is extremely important that you meet with your attorney before you participate in a Mediation. This should help you not only gather the appropriate information, but it will also assist you in analyzing your case, the strengths and weaknesses of each position, and arriving at a settlement range. Before you participate in Mediation, you should have a very good idea of what and where you want to be in that range of settlement. The lawyer should also be able to advise you on what might happen if the case proceeds to Court, which again should guide you in arriving at your settlement range.
  6. ANTICIPATE THE OPPOSING SIDE’S ARGUMENT: Before you participate in Mediation, it is important to understand, acknowledge, and at least internally, think about what the other side is looking for and why. Negotiation is often psychological. Are there other issues at play? For example, is one side extremely bitter? If so, there might not be anything that might be acceptable to the other side. Is the opposing side hiding information? If this is a spousal maintenance case and you have repeatedly requested that the opposing side provide monthly expenses and you have not received them, that is a sign that Mediation might not be appropriate. 
  7. INVOLVE THE MEDIATOR: The mediator should not be a messenger. Sometimes, it is common for the mediator to go back and forth and caucus. You and your attorney might be seated in one conference room, and the opposing party and his or her attorney might be seated in the other. In this instance, the mediator goes back and forth and exchanges information. In such instances, it is important to involve the mediator and ask for his or her opinion. After all, the mediator might be able to help close the gap on some issues based upon his or her personal observations. For example, the mediator might pick up on an issue that is really important to one party on an emotional level that you or your attorney might not recognize. Good mediators will do this naturally; however, you should always ask.
  8. INVOLVE YOUR ATTORNEY: The lawyer should not be an interested observer; instead, the lawyer should be advocating for you. The mediation process can be exhausting. During this process, you do have an advocate. That is your attorney. It is extremely important that you ask your attorney about his or her opinion. For example, if a specific offer is on the table, you need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of accepting the offer or rejecting the offer. The attorney should be able to assist you by comparing the settlement offer on the table with what might happen if the case were to proceed to trial. You should also ask your attorney how much attorneys fees it would cost in order to proceed to trial.
  9. BE AWARE OF YOUR EMOTIONAL STAMINA: Mediation can be extremely exhausting, at an emotion, financial, and physical level. Some Mediation sessions can last several hours. Therefore, it is extremely important that you do not lose your focus, and if you do find yourself losing focus, that you find a way to come back to the negotiating table with the right approach. Often times, the tendency is to settle just for the sake of settling. You need to be aware of that. A settlement should not be reached just because it is expected that a settlement be reached. If you find that you are not absorbing the information that is being shared either by the mediator or by your own attorney, that might be a sign that you need to suspend the Mediation session and schedule another Mediation session.
  10. HAVE AN OUTLINE: Before you participate in Mediation, ensure that you have an outline of all issues that you need to address. Your attorney should be able to assist you with this aspect. You should not return from a Mediation only to discover that there was an additional issue that needed to be addressed. Therefore, it can be extremely helpful if you have a precise set of issues that you want to address, along with the appropriate range of settlement for those specific issues.

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