A lot of questions are asked to me about mediation. How it works, who’s involved, are we going to be in the same room, will the mediator decide if we can’t come to an agreement? All very good questions. However, I always start with the most important thing a person going through a family law case should know about mediation. And that is: ”what type of preparation is necessary before going into mediation?”
It is not as simple as just getting the parties together and going into mediation, hoping that the mediator will solve the issues and the case can be done rapidly. An Austin divorce lawyer going into mediation with a client has to be prepared just as much as they are when they go to court. Like court, mediation is usually a one-time shot and once it’s over and the parties have agreed, there is not a chance to go back to mediation and revisit the issues. Once the parties sign a mediation agreement, the terms of the case are set in stone and can’t be undone.
For example, if you go into a mediation not knowing that your spouse has stock options and retirement worth three times the value of your house, but you agree to let them have these in exchange for the house, the deal is done. Once you sign off on a Mediated Settlement Agreement, you can’t go back and argue that “you didn’t know” and therefore the deal should be undone.
That is why it is so important to be prepared with your attorney before going into mediation. You need to have a full realization of not only all of the assets of your marriage, but what their actual worth is and how they should be divided. In the example above, if the attorney and client had been prepared going into mediation, not only would the client have received the house, but would have also received a portion of the spouse’s retirement and stock options in order to make the settlement fair.
Therefore, I stress to my clients the importance of being prepared when going into mediation. There is no need to rush. The time should be taken to ascertain the assets of the marriage, accurately value them and not waste a day in mediation without a full game plan. Believe me, in the end, it will pay off.