Once you and your spouse elect to move forward with divorce mediation, there are a number of preparatory steps you can take in order to make the most of your sessions. Once you agree to mediate, you will be provided access to financial software to accomplish several of these steps.
Take an inventory of your assets and debts:
Financial accounts: Between you and your spouse, what financial accounts do you own? Do you have non-retirement assets, such as checking, savings, and brokerage accounts? Do you have retirement accounts, such as a 401k, Roth IRA, or pension? What debts might you have? Is there credit card debt?
The family home: When a divorcing couple owns a family home, they must decide whether to sell the home, have one spouse remain and “buy out” the other, or continue to own together with a plan to sell in the future? You’ll want to consider your mortgage balance and market conditions.
Do you own a business? If one or both of you own your own business, you’ll want to spend time collecting formation documents regarding the business. Oftentimes, you’ll want to have the business valued in order to accomplish an equitable division.
Furniture and personal property: For personal property items, it is often useful to go into each room of your house with your spouse holding a note card divided into 3 columns: items which you will keep / items which will your spouse will keep / items which will need to be negotiated. This should help narrow down those personal property items that need to be addressed at mediation.
Vehicle(s): For your vehicles, you’ll want to track down information about auto loans, leases and VIN numbers for each car.
Hard-to-remember items: Divorcing couples often forget less obvious marital assets such as time-shares, season tickets, magazine subscriptions.
Speak with Professionals: If you have a CPA or financial advisor, this would be a good time to initiate a conversation with them. You’ll want to inform them of your plan to divorce and to learn of any tax considerations of dividing assets and debts. If there is a family home, you may also need to speak to a loan officer about the potential of one spouse refinancing the mortgage into their name alone?
Protect your credit score: Because you will be transitioning from joint credit with your spouse to personal credit post-divorce, you want to take an inventory of all joint accounts, including joint checking accounts and credit cards, to ensure your credit score is protected. During the transition, it may be wise to separate credit cards and checking accounts, or create accounts with dual permission.
Parenting Plan Considerations:
In order to be prepare yourself to discuss a parenting plan, you’ll want to consider the best interests of your children and a schedule that would work best for your family. Give particular thought to the relationship you have and want to have with your children. Are they young enough where they need to see each parent regularly? Are they old enough where too much transition would be hard? Oftentimes, if your children are old enough, they can discuss their preferences and concerns. However, they may feel uncomfortable “choosing” one parent over the other. It is important to approach a parenting plan by giving yourself and your spouse and children a measured degree of calm and space. Ultimately, you’ll need to determine a realistic schedule that is in the best interests of your children.
Parenting plan schedules: You will want a parenting plan that works for your schedule and accommodates the needs of your children. Spend some time thinking about the intersection of work and school schedules. How do you want to handle days of special significance such as birthdays and holidays. Do you have any particular traditions that you’ll want to incorporate into a parenting plan? What do you want to do during summer months in terms of activities and vacations?
Making joint decisions: In terms of co-parenting, you will want to give thought to how you’ll make joint decisions. Where will the kids go to school? Will the kids attend public or private (or home schooling)? What will happen in future years? How will you pay for health care insurance costs, including non-covered expenses?
I will walk you through the process
This article presents a fairly comprehensive list that is intended to provide structure and guidance – it is not meant to overwhelm you. In preparing for mediation, you do not need to have all your ducks in a row. As a mediator, I will be there to help walk you through each step of the process.