This set of blogs is a return to the 4 part blog series to look at issues in more dept and to break issues down into manageable chunks for those feeling overwhelmed by issues relating to their separation.
You can look at the first part of the blog talking about practical arrangements for preparing for mediation. You can also look at the second blog which invites you to consider how emotionally ready you are for family mediation.
In this blog we will look at getting organised for family mediation. Being on top of information can help you to get the most from the process. For some people this is their natural home but for others it is a challenge and it can be helpful to have guidance on how to manage this.
This is probably the most overwhelming part of sorting out issues that arise from a separation. If you are someone who has folders with separators of all your financial information then you may be less overwhelmed than someone who has documents all over the place, or doesn’t keep any of it.
Your mediator will give you a list of standard documents for sorting out financial issues, but it’s important to note that there is huge flexibility in the mediation process and you can tailor this list to your particular circumstances. For example, if you have been running a joint account that you’ve both had access to, you may feel that including statements for this account is not needed. If you have a number of assets, or either of you is worried about things slipping through the net, then it can be useful to complete the “one size fits all” Form E so that this can act as a prompt for any policies or accounts that you may have forgotten about.
For many people this can be their worst nightmare and this can lead them to undertake the job of providing financial information half-heartedly. This in itself can cause issues in the process. It’s far better to take time to do this part of the process properly, than trying to do it as quickly as possible and then realizing you have not left yourself enough time, and doing a half hearted job that ends up in accusations of disingenuity – or worse still that you’re hiding assets. Once this suspicion has been aroused it is hard to put it back in the cupboard and it can set the tone for negotiations.
We have a series of blogs setting out the process of sorting out finances. You can access all 4 parts from here.
There is also other admin that goes alongside the finances and it can be useful to make sure you have this information easily to hand as it can inform mediation meetings. This might include:
- Knowing where you are at in the divorce proceedings and having key pieces of information to hand such as the date the Decree Nisi is being pronounced. For more information about the divorce process see this blog.
- Having key dates for your children such as sports days, holidays and other important dates can also be useful in making arrangements for your children in mediation.
- Having your diary in mediation generally can be useful in making arrangements for children and knowing when you’re free and for booking further meetings
- Being aware of information and key terms around any work bonus schemes, payroll deductions, pensions, health insurance and life assurance (or being able to easily access that information) can also be useful.
The more informed your discussions in mediation, the more likely it is that you will be able to create a workable resolution for you both (and for your children).
Being clear on your objectives
It can also be helpful to give some thought to what you would like to see in a workable resolution and to have had any legal advice you feel is needed on this. Coming to mediation able to say things like that:
- “I don’t like that bit because I know it will cause issues with this”
- “My objective is to ensure I can make ends meet and I can’t in that scenario”
- “for me my post separation life for myself involves X, Y and Z so I’d like to talk about how we include that”
Is really useful. Knowing your own red lines is useful but equally not being open to compromises can cause difficulties which moves us on to……
Understanding your compromises
Trying to find a resolution that is mutually acceptable usually involves some level of compromise. Knowing what compromises you’re prepared to make can be useful. Having information about how you can make them doable is even more helpful. These are examples of compromises it can be useful to consider and make enquiries about so you can see if you can make them work for you:
- If money is tight how can you house yourself more cheaply. Could you move further out? Look at a smaller property? Is shared ownership or Help to Buy an option?
- If it looks as though you will both struggle to make ends meet can you increase your income? Decrease your outgoings? Do both?
- How can you make the money you have stretch further?
If you have ideas about this and some idea of how to practically make it work then this can inform your discussions in mediation. Remember that a compromise that you control and shape is better than a compromise thrust upon you by a stranger (as would happen if you end up asking a judge to resolve issues for you).
Having all these pieces of information helps to ensure you are set up to make your discussions in mediation as informed and constructive as possible. Sometimes it will only become apparent that further information is needed during a mediation meeting. If you can do your best to get the information for your next meeting then that will inform your discussions in that next meeting. Mediation often makes discussions evolve and change and so further information can be needed. By both being open to exploring different possibilities and engaging in other ideas and collecting information to enable you to explore those possibilities you naturally create a more engaged and peaceful process with greater possibility for both of you.
Next week: getting the most out of the family mediation process an overview
If you’d like more information about mediation then please contact us. You can also sign up to our free mailing list, or access our free community of support via the closed Soulful Separation support Facebook group.