Divorce Mediation Checklist: Learn the Right Questions to Ask during Divorce Mediation


Divorce Mediation Tips

Some couples find that mediation is a useful way to get divorced. Mediation involves hiring a neutral third party (such as a retired judge) who will negotiate the divorce or help you resolve specific issues of contention. Both you and your spouse must agree to use a mediator, but any agreements made are strictly nonbinding.

The biggest advantage of mediation is that it can be a quick, less formal method of getting divorced because court dates and litigation are not involved. It can also help minimize certain issues and acrimony on both sides.

The nonbinding element of mediation is a double-edged sword, as it can sometimes be a waste of time and money. Another disadvantage is that it is not appropriate in all cases. For instance, if you and your spouse have serious issues, mediation may not be the right path for you.

However, you should be aware that mediation will likely save you money. It is an efficient way to navigate the divorce process, and it does not involve a lot of court paperwork. It is not as public as other options, and it does not bind you.

Divorce Mediation Checklist

1) List the Property to be Divided

To start, you need to understand which assets need to be divided. If you do not have a clean understanding of everything you own, you will end up getting less than you deserve during the divorce process. Consider the following:

  • Bank, Investment, and Retirement Account Balances
  • Marital Home
    • Purchase Date
    • Mortgage and Loan Information
    • Appraisal and Valuation Information
  • Other Home(s) Information
  • Vehicle Data
    • Purchase Date
    • Estimated Value (Kelly Blue Book or similar)
    • Insurance Information
  • Personal Property of Value (including jewelry, artwork, collection, and antiques)
  • Insurance Policy Information
  • Any Other Assets or Debts That May Need Division (such as student loans)

2) What to Ask For during Divorce Mediation

Once you know what property you have, the next question is: what are your goals? What do you want to achieve when mediation is over? Do you want to keep the house, or sell it and split the proceeds? Who will have primary custody of the children? You should make a thorough list of what you want. BE REALISTIC. Then rank your priorities in order.

  • Define Your Goals
    • What is essential?
    • What things can you live without?
    • What is on your wish list?
  • Consider the Goals of Your Soon-to-be Ex
    • What do you think they care about most?
    • Do you have areas you will probably agree upon?
    • What areas will likely cause conflict?
  • Prioritize
    • What is most important to you?
    • What is an acceptable outcome?
    • What do you not care about very much?

3) Learn Your Local Laws

To understand if your goals are realistic, you must comprehend what you may be entitled to.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the state and county laws that govern your divorce? 
  • Are you in a community property or equitable distribution state? 
  • Should you expect to pay or receive a specific amount of child or spousal support
  • How does the state resolve custody?

Preparation Is Key to Success during Mediation

Mediation has the potential to resolve all the major issues in your divorce, but it can also be fruitless. While there is no guarantee of success, one way to guarantee a difficult mediation process is failing to prepare. You should also check out the Divorce Checklist to help you through the mediation process. 

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Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is author of Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide and host of the Divorce and Your Money Show on iTunes. Learn more at  www.divorceandyourmoney.com.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA

Dallas, Texas

Shawn C. H. Leamon is Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, a firm that helps successful families manage large financial transitions like divorce, inheritance and selling a business.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College, double majoring in Economics and Philosophy, and his Masters in Business Administration at Spain’s IE Business School.

Before founding LaGrande Global, Shawn helped manage $1.1 billion in client assets at Bernstein Global Wealth Management. He also worked as a credit research analyst at J.P. Morgan. He is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and he has been an advisor to numerous high-stakes divorce cases.

Shawn is the author of two well-received finance books: Managing Private Wealth: Principles, and Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide, both published in 2016.

In his spare time, Shawn is an ultra-endurance athlete and has competed in events as long as 24 hours. He is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Alumni Board of Greenhill School.