By Melissa Salfi, Legal Coach, Collaborative Divorce Lawyer and Mediator
You have paid your mediation retainer and the big day is approaching. You are wondering, how do I prepare for the mediation? For many, attending a family mediation session with their former spouse is a stressful event, especially if you’re representing yourself. You may not have spoken for a long time, or it may be your last chance to settle your dispute before going to court. While there is not nearly as much pressure to prepare for a mediation as there is for a court hearing, it is important to make the most out of the session. If you arrive prepared, you are more likely to settle your case and avoid costly litigation.
Bring all the documents that are relevant to your case with you, from financial disclosure to reports completed. I have seen many mediations that took longer than they should have or required a second or even third session because a party did not bring with them the relevant documents to the first session. Here are some examples of documents in a family law matter that you should bring with you, if available:
- Financial statements and supporting documents (Income Tax Returns, Notices of Assessment, Corporate Tax Returns, etc.)
- Any reports completed, e.g., Business Valuation, Section 211 Report, Pension Valuation, and Home Appraisal
- Court pleadings
- Offers exchanged
- Case law or other evidence supporting your claims
Try to compile your documents in an organized fashion, in a binder with tabs for instance. You can also organize the documents electronically but be prepared to share them with the other party and the mediator.
Items to Pack
During the mediation, you may need to access your emails, bank accounts, or other information that you did not bring with you during the mediation. Therefore, I recommend that you pack your laptop.
You may also need to make phone calls to obtain information or get an opinion from an expert you’ve been working with or a lawyer you’ve consulted with. Before making a decision, you may wish to speak with a support person or with a loved one who could be impacted by these decisions. Coming to the session with a phone and laptop will ensure that you are able to access most of the information you need, and you’ll feel more connected to the important people who are not present at the session. And lastly, don’t forget your charger for your phone and laptop!
While your mediator will likely supply refreshments and some basic stationary, I recommend bringing a water bottle, snacks, pens, and notepad, in case this is not provided.
Beyond bringing the relevant material and supplies to the mediation, you also need to prepare yourself mentally and physically for a long and emotional day where you will likely make some big decisions.
Prior to the mediation, take some time to think about what issues need to be addressed, and consider which ones are a priority for you. Write down what your objectives are, what’s important to you, and how you would like your future to look. Reflect on what your concerns are and what you’re afraid of. Make a note of any questions you have and any information you need to make a decision. If you can request the information needed from the other side before the mediation, that would be ideal.
If you have been consulting with a lawyer, legal coach or another professional who will not be present at the mediation, check with them to see if they would be available to answer your call during the mediation. You may have questions for them or need advice during the session.
The night before the mediation, pack your bag and then try to do something relaxing and get a good night’s sleep. The morning of the mediation, eat a good breakfast and give yourself more time than needed to arrive at the session early. If you suffer from anxiety or depression, I encourage you to schedule a therapy session both before and after your mediation session to help you cope with what can be a very emotional and stressful day.
If you have any concerns or special requests before the mediation, bring them to your mediator’s attention. Your safety and comfort are our priority and are vital to a successful mediation. The legal coaches at Coach My Case are experienced in helping with self-represented litigants prepare for mediation. We also have a skilled team of mediators who are available to mediate your case. For help on figuring out which option is best for you, book your free 20-minute consult today.