In most divorce and post-decree custody cases, Indiana trial courts have local rules requiring the parties to attend mediation before a hearing/trial. While the court can waive this requirement, it is constitutional to mandate the parties go to mediation before trial.1 Statistically speaking, a significant majority of domestic cases settle at mediation. However, to make the most of your mediation, there are three keys to ensuring you enter mediation prepared for a complete resolution; they are analyzed in this blog post.
The first is having the documents (in paper or electronic format) to show the value of all significant assets and liabilities as of the date of filing. This may be an appraisal of the marital residence or the value of a business. The documents almost always include the parties pay stubs and tax returns. In most cases, there will be credit card statements, mortgage statements, brokerage account statements and the like to demonstrate all assets and liabilities. While this may seem obvious, every seasoned attorney has spent countless hours in mediation trying to determine the value of an asset. Normally, this does not include personalty, such as household goods or clothing. However, if there are extra-ordinary household goods, such as antiques, they must be valued before the mediation. In addition, custody matters often require documents for mediation, such as a child support docket reflecting child support payments and to determine arrearages. Without these documents, mediation is diminished or may be unsuccessful if there is a significant dispute about values. While this takes time and effort, some of the most contested cases wind up settling at mediation.
Second, mediation often raises the need to consult with experts, ranging from your CPA to a financial planner. In order to make a good decision at mediation and not guess at assets/liabilities and how they will be addressed in the future, it is critical that you are able to reach foreseeable experts or others you need to consult with by phone or email. Related, and perhaps the biggest mistake litigants make at mediation is assuming the parties will just agree to the values of assets and/or liabilities. One of the most common sticking points is the value of the marital residence. An appraisal or other valuation documentation may move the mediation along or cause it to stall or be unsuccessful without such. Who agrees to take the home may well hinge on the equity and marketability. Mediation is no time for guesswork about the significant assets and liabilities of the parties. Have your experts available by phone.
The last key to a successful mediation is to have a Marital Balance Sheet listing all significant assets and liabilities in one place so that nothing is missed. This one document also can be changed during mediation to reflect the final agreement to a division of marital assets. However, this is tied to being able to substantiate the values on the Marital Balance Sheet, if questioned. This is also why the underling documents referenced in this blog should be accessible during mediation.
While not all cases resolve in mediation, these three tips will avoid wasting time and money and give you the best chance of settling the case at mediation. Following these tips may literally make or break the mediation. These tips are provided by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handled domestic cases of all varieties throughout the state. This blog post is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.