When you have made the incredibly difficult decision to divorce, the logical next step is to decide how you’re going to go about actually getting divorced—in other words, you must choose which divorce process option is going to get you from point A (having decided to divorce) to point B (being divorced).

Many couples choose mediation.  At Kales & Kales, we are big fans of this option. Not only is mediation generally less expensive than a traditionally litigated divorce, it also allows the parties to answer for themselves the questions which much be answered in all divorces and which would otherwise be decided by the court:  What is going to happen to our property?  How are we going to allocate debt?  What is our parenting plan going to be?  What are we going to do about child and/or spousal support?

As Fairfax, Virginia divorce mediators, we have discovered there are a few steps you, as a divorce mediation participant, can take to assure that your time with your mediator is well spent.  A little bit of preparation prior to your first session can save you time with your mediator.  And, time saved equals money saved.

  1. Know What You Owe and Know What You Have, What It’s Worth and How It’s Titled . . . Or At Least Know What You Don’t Know. 

In a lot of marriages one spouse takes responsibility for the finances.  Sometimes spouses split the financial responsibilities, so that one spouse is responsible for day to day operations and one spouse is in charge of the big picture/investment portfolio.  Whatever your situation–now is the time to learn what you owe, what you own, the value of what you own, and how what you own is titled.

Prior to your first mediation session with Kales & Kales (and with most mediators), you will be forwarded a financial disclosure sheet.  To make the most of your session you and your spouse should go over this sheet together.  You should know how many bank accounts you have and what their balances are, what retirement accounts you have and the account balances, the value of your home, what you owe on your home, what debts, including credit cards, you have, and what other assets you have.

If after going through the financial disclosure sheet you still have questions, mediation sessions provide a safe environment to discuss what information must be acquired before informed decisions can be made.

Knowing this type of information will allow us as a mediation team to identify the questions we need to answer.   And once we identify the questions to be answered, we can start generating solutions.   Good preparation saves time during your session.

  1. Know the Difference Between Wants and Needs

Undoubtedly, once you’ve reached the decision to divorce, there will be more difficult decisions in your future.  Unfortunately, there is nothing to be done to avoid that.

In order for you to start making those hard decisions, it is useful to know the difference between a want and a need.   Perhaps the best way to describe the difference between a want and a need is through examples.  So . . . you NEED to have some place to live, you may WANT to remain living in the marital home;  you NEED a parenting schedule that works for both parents, you may WANT to have the children 75% of the time;  you NEED reliable transportation, you may WANT to keep the BMW with the high loan payment.

Your needs cannot be compromised.  Your wants are where compromises must be made if settlement will be reached.   Know which are which.

  1. Know Your Priorities and Know Where You Are Willing to Compromise and Be Willing to Be Creative.

Our goal in mediation is to help you and your spouse reach a settlement with which you both can live.  In order for this to happen, both spouses must be willing to compromise.

Be willing to give a little to get a little.  If you have a mental list of your top priorities and areas where you are willing to compromise, you won’t feel like you’re giving on everything.  It is important to remember that what is important to you may not be as important to your spouse.   This give and take is the balancing act which allows us to meet in the middle.

When both spouses have the same priorities, as a participant you must be willing to think creatively.  The best solution may be one that hasn’t yet occurred to you.  Have an open mind!

If you follow these tips, your chances of success in reaching a settlement go way up.