If you have your mediation scheduled, or if you are even considering our services, here are a few recommendations for making the most of your mediation session:
1. Read our blog posts. They are full of helpful information regarding processes in NC, effects of divorce and separation on children, financial information, etc.
2. Avoid trying to start negotiating to “narrow down the number of things we have to mediate.” Don’t do that! You may fall into old patterns of arguments that will not help you in the mediation process. Let us help you in our sessions.
3. Take the time to fully, completely and truthfully answer the questionnaire we send you. And, if you refer to a bank, credit card, or retirement account statement in putting an answer on the questionniare, keep a folder with all of those statements so that both of you can look at it during the mediation if necessary. Nothing will hurt your mediation more than one of you trying to hide an asset or not being honest. Such behavior will likely force the other party to retain a lawyer and go to court.
4. Depending on your circumstances, you may want to consider scheduling a consultation with a lawyer before the mediation. This will allow you to ask questions of the lawyer about NC law and possible outcomes in your case. Be sure to ask also about: Time (If we have to go to court, how long are we likely to have to wait for a court date? Are there required steps we have to take before we can get a court date? How long does that process take? How long you have to wait for that consultation can give you a window into how long the process can take as well.) Cost (What is the retainer? If we can’t settle issues and have to go to court, how much more in addition to the retainer will I likely have to pay? If we settle nothing and try everything, how much will that cost?) Certainty (How certain are you that I will get the outcome that you think I should get? Are there any judges that you are concerned about deciding my case either in terms of competence or experience? What is the possible worst case for me?)
5. Consider your BATNA. What is a BATNA? It is the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. The questions I recommend asking of the lawyer above will help you figure out your BATNA. For example, let’s say in mediation, we are discussing a resolution that you think leaves you $10,000 short of what you should receive. If you learn from talking to an attorney, that the initial retainer is $5,000 and the court process will take a year or more to complete and if everything is tried in court, the total cost will be closer to $25,000, you might be ok with the resolution that leaves you $10,000 shorter than you wanted to be. Your BATNA is not too good so the negotiated agreement is better. But, let’s say there is an offer that leaves you $50,000 short of what you believe you should receive. In that case, you may decide that the BATNA (the court process) is better than the negotiated agreement. You have to be careful here and make sure you consider the certainty questions I raised. Spending $25,000 and having the process take a year or more and then ending up worse off than what we are negotiating is your worst case scenario, so you have to carefully consider that possibility as you consider your BATNA. You also need to consider the impact of the process on your well-being and that of your children.
6. Be careful about the input of friends and family. Often when a couple divorces, friends and family take sides. They speak in terms of what you deserve (often while being completely ignorant of the law), or they tell you the outcome someone else got (who may have a totally different situation than you). And, they don’t have to live with the consequences. Be very careful of friends and family who are mad on your behalf and raise doubts. Particularly if they do so after the mediation. If they haven’t done the prep work, and they haven’t heard all that goes into your mediation, they can raise doubts for you that are unfounded and counter-productive. If you are going to seek advice, seek professional advice from a lawyer who is highly experienced in family law. Not from what I call “neighborhood lawyers.”
We commit to getting your mediation scheduled quickly and to an efficient, confidential, non-adversarial process. Our goal is to help you both obtain a fair and wise resolution of your divorce or separation so that you can concentrate on healing (for yourself and your children), co-parenting effectively, and on what comes next for all of you.