By Michelle Garneau

You and your spouse have looked at different ways to get your divorce done. Some more adversarial and some not.

After careful consideration, you both decide to go to mediation to resolve your issues in order to keep the conflict down and to preserve your relationship as parents.

The mediator has spoken with each of you and set up your appointment. Now what?

Here are 8 ways to prepare for your divorce mediation:

1. Develop Strategies to Manage Your Emotions

Going through a separation or divorce is usually an emotional time. This is normal. It can be helpful to get support from family and friends, seek counselling or to join a support group.

Whatever choice you make to help you prepare, try to come to mediation with a clear head as much as is possible. Choose not to say hurtful words to one another or to say something that you know will get a rise out of the other. This will be beneficial to you.

Also, keep in mind that when emotions go up, our intelligence goes down making it less likely that we will make good decisions.

2. Find Out Your Legal Rights and Responsibilities

Before mediation, try to set up a consultation with a lawyer so you can get legal advice. Be sure that you speak with a lawyer that specializes in Family Law or Collaborative Family Law.

You can get legal advice or legal information through a lawyer referral service, employee assistance program or a law students group. Also, sometimes legal information seminars are provided through community colleges or government agencies.

Friends, family, and co-workers are often eager to help by giving you advice based on their own divorce or that of someone they know. It is very important to remember that every situation is different and you should get advice based on your specific circumstances.

Speak with your mediator to get more information.

3. Speak to Any Other Specialists (e.g. Child Psychologist, Accountant, etc.)

Depending on your situation, you may want to speak with other experts such as a child psychologist about your child’s developmental needs or an accountant about income tax laws.

This will help you to have all the facts. Any of this information can be exchanged between the two of you before the mediation.

If this cannot take place, then bring your information with you so it can be shared at the mediation.

4. Organize Your Financial Documents & Make a Budget

If you need to discuss child support or spousal support (i.e. alimony), you will need to gather your income information for the last 2-3 years and recent pay stubs.

Each of you may also want to put together a budget for your living expenses.

If you need to discuss the division of your assets and debts, bring along an appraisal of your home, information about your investments and pensions, as well as details about your mortgage, personal loans and credit cards.

This can be very overwhelming, so check with your mediator to get a full list of items to bring to your mediation.

If you need help putting together a budget, you can search online or you can ask your mediator for assistance.

5. Make a List of the Topics and Concerns You Want to Discuss

Put together a list beforehand of any topics or concerns you would like discuss in the mediation. This way you will not forget anything.

Mediation is the place to get all your concerns on the table. Take the time to think about ways you can bring up these matters that will make it easier for the other person to digest.

The mediator is a professional who can help you talk about uncomfortable or even “heated” topics. If you need help with this, ask your mediator for assistance.

6. Put Together Information About Your Child’s Life

Parents usually need to discuss matters about their children in mediation.

It is helpful to bring along activity schedules, as well as school holiday and event calendars.

Also, make sure to have all the details of any upcoming health related appointments or vacation/travel plans for your child.

Sometimes parents need to look at the possibility of changing their child’s daycare or school. If this is the case, do your research and bring along copies of this information to the mediation or exchange it between the two of you beforehand.

7. Be Prepared to Listen and Look at Different Options and New Ideas

Mediation is all about communication.

Listening to the other person and being able to clearly explain your concerns and ideas is really important.

Be open to look at and evaluate all possibilities. Once the creative juices start flowing, there may be options you have never thought of before.

8. Confirm the date, time and location of Your Mediation Appointment

Always check with your mediator to confirm the details of your mediation appointment including the date, time and location.

Find out in advance about where to park or how to get there. Also, it is a good idea to leave extra time to get to your appointment in case there are any delays.

Keeping these things in mind will help you to arrive at the mediation in a more calm state so you can get off to a good start.

Mediation can be more productive and effective when you take the time to properly prepare.

Doing research ahead of time about schools or daycares, or talking to a child psychologist and exchanging this information between yourselves, will save time in the mediation.

Have all the facts – whether this is about the mortgage for your house or school holidays for your child. Also, getting legal advice before mediation leads to more informed discussions.

And last, but not least, have strategies to help you to deal with your emotions so you can make better and lasting decisions for yourself and your child.

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