Divorce is an emotional trauma under the best of circumstances. Although it is full of emotional, intangible emotions, the majority of the time will be spend determining an equitable (fair) division of property, determining support and parenting issues. There are many items that are facts and are capable of absolute certainty. These items tend to be financial and the operative documents ought to be obtained and brought to the mediation so there will be no need for fumbling around wondering about them. For instance, the amount of the mortgage on the marital residence is a fact and it is easily determined.
Although the emotions cannot be healed by the hands of justice, all judges are remarkably adept at determining mathematical/financial issues. Therefore, one should not contemplate for a moment that recalcitrant memories or uncertainty of values will impede the Court in its appointed task. Accordingly, make it easier upon yourself and gather the knowable information that one will need to resolve the tangible, property settlement issues.
Pack your bag with the following documents and information:
1. Current Bank Statements for joint or individual Bank Accounts. (Yes, All of them).
2. Health Insurance Coverage Confirmation. Costs of Family and individual coverage. Yes. It is sometimes difficult to break it out. So, ask the insurer or Plan to do it before hand. This is important for marital dissolution agreements, parenting plans and support issues.
3. Pension/Retirement Plan. Current Statements.
4. Life Insurance information. Is there cash surrender value ? What is the amount of the premium ?
5. Marital Residence: Who will stay in the marital residence ? Is there a mortgage? If so, bring the current mortgage monthly statement ? Or, some document that shows the balance of the mortgage on the house. Is there equity in the marital residence ? If so, how much ? What is the current market value of marital residence ? Has there been a recent appraisal ? If so, bring it. [Words I hate to hear: I’m gonna get that . . . ]. Why haven’t you gotten it before now ?
6. Vehicles: Who is driving which vehicle ? How are the vehicles titled ? Individually or jointly ? How much is owed upon any vehicle ? Is the debt on the vehicle individually or joint ?
7. Division of Marital/Individual: Have the parties agreed upon a division of marital/ individual property ? If so, have you written it down ?
8. PARENTING: [The conventional wisdom is that the child’s natural parents living in a state of wedlock is the optimal model to raise a child. If the natural parents are divorcing, then we are past the conventional optimal, AND, we are to t he “next best thing or situation” wherein each parent can be the caring involved parent that loving parents should be. That will require sacrifice and hard work and a genuine desire to make it work.] If there are minor children, the Court will require that the parents agree upon a Parenting Plan utilizing the form prescribed by the Courts, OR, the Court will do it for them. Parenting for divorced parents is about “the next best thing”. The Parties should have reviewed the Parenting Plan and hopefully have a working draft of it so they can BRING IT WITH THEM to the mediation. If the current or coming school year calendar is available bring it with you. [That way one does not have to guess about when fall, spring break; Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation].
9. Tax Returns & W2s. Last calendar year W2 or other document showing income in last calendar year.
10. Current salary documentation. A pay check stub may show this information. A statement from employer with current salary and bonuses, if any. [Remarkably, many times one spouse will have allegedly have experienced a drop in income from the prior year. It is truly astonishing how frequently there seems to be a cause and effect relationship between a divorce and a decrease in at least one spouses’s income. Accordingly, if you are the spouse claiming a decrease in income that will conveniently reduce your support obligations, come prepared to prove it at the mediation OR at trial. If it can be documented, it saves a lot of bickering, wasted time and your money in a mediation.
11. Marital Debt. How much does the couple owe ? Bank or other loans ?What is the amount of credit card debt ? In whose name is the card/cards ? Was the money spent in behalf of the couple during the marriage ?
12. CONSULT with your lawyer prior to the mediation and bring everything that they request. If it is not within your possession, go get it !
These suggestions are based upon the Professor’s experience and do not constitute legal advice. Divorcing parties should always consult with knowledgeable family practice lawyers during the divorce.
© 2016 The ADR Professor