Tips for preparing your family law case for mediation.
I have been a trial lawyer for over 30 years, however I am a relatively new mediator. I am finding that many attorneys are not fully prepared for mediation and seem to expect me to fill in the missing pieces and find a settlement for them. Well, I may be good, but I can’t work miracles (yet!) Here are some steps I would like you to take prior to mediation that will ensure a much better chance for reaching resolution.
Prepare your case for mediation as if you were going to trial. Have answers based on credible evidence for all disputed facts. Whether or not the other side is in agreement with your evidence is not relevant, just make sure that all of your data can be supported in some credible way.
Get appraisals for values of disputed property, such as real property or businesses. Appraisals carry weight and will make resolving those issues much more likely.
Have date of filing values and present values for all retirement accounts and investment accounts. This way I will have marital values as well as the value of any separate contributions and/or appreciation amounts.
Create worksheets. Prepare marital asset addendums, net income worksheets, child support calculations, etc, in advance of mediation and to reflect your stated position. For example, if you want 55% of all marital assets, have a worksheet showing what this looks like. If your client needs $5,000 per month to support him or herself, prepare a net income worksheet to substantiate this claim.
If custody is at issue I would like a guardian involved. A discussion with the guardian helps me a lot when evaluating each parties’ custody position. Early mediations with contested custody issues, before a guardian has become involved, are very difficult to analyze and resolve.
Prepare your client. Mediation is about compromise. Unless your client has a very good reason (i.e. safety) please let them know that they will be expected to compromise, as will their spouse. Mediation is a court mandated process, but in 95% of all cases I have ever been involved in, there is no good reason not to compromise and come to resolution. If there is an issue on which your client is unwilling to compromise, please call me in advance to discuss.
Write me an email. Most of you do this very well. Write me an email with all the salient points, and tell me what it is you want and why.
Following these few points will ensure a greater likelihood of success in mediation and, the best part, its all billable time!!