Posted on : April 12, 2016, By: Christopher Hildebrand
How to Prepare for Divorce Mediation in Arizona
Don’t just walk into a mediation hoping things will come together for the best. A majority of the time, they won’t. Preparation is absolutely essential to a successful mediation. Mediation – one way of resolving divorce differences outside of court – is essentially a supervised negotiation between you and your spouse. The mediator oversees it, keeping things civil and constructive and making sure that one party doesn’t bully or yell down the other. But you can’t get anywhere unless you’ve done your homework. So how do you prepare for a mediation? Read on for the best tips.
1) Get a lawyer
Yes, divorce mediation in Arizona is an alternative to divorce litigation, but it is not a substitute for the advice and support of an experienced attorney. You need to understand the basic principles of divorce law in Arizona going in, and how the law will view your situation. And you’ll certainly want an attorney to review the agreement before you sign it. He’ll also know how to assist you to prepare for mediation.
That said, don’t get a pit bull, take-no-prisoners type of lawyer for mediation. Divorce counsel experienced with both mediation and divorce litigation can offer you a good overview of what to expect. And don’t count on the mediator for legal advice, even if he or she is an attorney. While a mediator may inform you and your spouse of Arizona divorce law basics like community property, they are ethically precluded from offering either of you specific legal advice.
2) Organize an Overview of Your Finances
What do you have and what do you owe? You’ll need to know this going into the first session of mediation in order to get anywhere. Not every thorny divorce issue involves money, but most of them do, like how to divide your property and how much family support is appropriate. Gather your financial documents and use them to prepare a complete list of assets and debts – yours, mine and ours. If you and your spouse are reasonably amicable, you can work together on this overview of your finances. If not, prepare your own and make sure to include current balances of bank accounts, mutual funds, investment accounts and retirement accounts. Also include the value of your home and all other real estate, cars and other vehicles, business holdings, furniture and other important household contents, paintings and jewelry, annuities, stock, and even pending law suits. You’ll need current documents that evidence each asset.
How to Prepare for Divorce Mediation in Arizona.
To document debts, get copies of the most recent mortgage statement and home equity loan statements, credit card statements, student loan statements, vehicle loan statements and evidence of the current balance of any and all loans. Include in your financial packet copies of your last three years of state and federal tax returns, with attachments. These should include all of the W-2’s. Also, bring recent pay stubs showing the current pay and deductions for you and for your spouse. Err on the side of being overly organized. Preparing a spreadsheet is helpful.
3) Prepare a Post-Divorce Budget
One of the most effective ways to discuss family support issues is to prepare an actual budget for making ends meet after the divorce. Be fair, reasonable and make the numbers as concrete as possible. It’s easier to negotiate if you have a written budget in front of you set out how much you (and the kids if you have any) will need on a monthly basis. Include housing and household expenses, vehicle expenses, health and dental insurance, medical co-payments and deductibles, as well as school and activity expenses for the kids. Make a packet of documents that support the figures you list in the budget.
4) Clear Away or Leave Aside Emotional Baggage
You’ll be far more likely to negotiate a settlement of divorce issues in a mediation if you don’t insist on arguing about the issues that wrecked your marriage. The more work you and your spouse have accomplished toward resolving the emotions of the divorce, the more efficiently your mediation can proceed. Whether or not your spouse has sorted out the emotional side of the divorce, be sure you have worked on it yourself. See a therapist or talk things through with close friends or family members so that you don’t go into the mediation with tears and accusations instead of a businesslike attitude.
5) Child Custody Issues
: If one of the issues you are hoping to negotiate in mediation is child custody, remember to put the best interests of the children first, because that’s what the judge will do if the issue comes to trial. Talk in terms of a parenting plan rather than custody, the needs of the kids rather than your own, and remember that your children need both parents in their lives.
Prepare a calendar for each child that identifies his school days, school holidays and activities. Prepare another showing the work schedules of you and your spouse. Make a list for each child noting their special needs according to their age, temperament, and development. Put together several different parenting plan proposals, but keep an open mind to other options. Figure out before you start whether you will need a structured parenting plan. If you doubt that a flexible plan will work for you, insist that the parenting plan specify the day-to-day time share of the children, as well as plans for every holiday, summer breaks, and vacations into the future.
Jennifer, thank you for being my attorney. I could not have been more pleased with the outcome of my family court hearing. Everything you have done for me throughout this case reflects in the final ruling of the judge. You helped me keep my head together and taught me a lot about myself as a person. I learned so much about my life from observing and listening to you. I will take all the advice you gave me to continue taking responsibility for my choices, continue to put the kids' needs first, and always stay truthful. Your diligence, dedication, and persistence in my case made what seemed impossible, possible. You are a wonderful person and an amazing attorney and I am stronger and more confident because of you.
I just want to again thank the Firm for working with me all that it has. I could not have done anything without everyone's assistance. You, Chris and Stacey have been and continue to provide me with compassion and hard work towards my case. Also a very special thanks to Kip for taking my case in the beginning. Also continued support from him and his dedication to providing me with his expertise in this matter.
After interviewing several law firms, I came across Jennifer Shick, and her firm, who I hired to represent me for my Family Court case. Jennifer has extensive knowledge of the law and is determined to bring the truth to every issue involved within the case. Throughout my case, Jennifer was prepared meticulously as well as went above and beyond all of my expectations. Even when the other party tried to differ from the truth, lie to the Judge, and turn situations around, Jennifer remained attentive and provided substantial evidence to show the judge the facts as well as the proof to support what was the best interests of my children. Additionally, Jennifer helped me endure many difficult experiences, situations and inspired me to remain positive throughout the entirety of my case. Her kindness, compassion, and professionalism helped me through very difficult times and made the process feel a thousand times lighter on my shoulders. She truly has my children and my best interest at heart and I trust her perspective as well as her honesty on each and every aspect of my case. She lessened the burden on my shoulders and even when I felt like the case was not going to go in my favor, Jennifer was open-minded and reassured me that the Judge would, in fact, see the truth, which he did and the case went in my favor. After nine months of court, everything finally came together. I cannot declare how much Jennifer has been an outstanding attorney. She addressed each and every issue with diligence, she cares about her clients and their families. Jennifer genuinely cares about her clients and her dedication to the details of the case was remarkable. Overall, I am extremely pleased with Jennifer’s services and I am truly thankful that I was so blessed to have her represent my children and me. I highly recommend Jennifer as one of the best attorneys in Arizona and if the situation ever arises, I will definitely have her represent my children and me again.
Dear Stacey and Kip, How can I ever thank you enough for helping me through the most difficult time in my life? I couldn't put into words my heartfelt gratefulness. You both were so compassionate and professional at every given moment throughout this process with me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You helped me to regain my freedom.
I was a client of Attorney Kevin Park for the dissolution of a divorce in 2016. And since I had never had the need to hire an attorney before for any purpose, I was somewhat apprehensive of the process. But the very calm and professional demeanor of Mr. Park eased my fears. He adeptly answered all my questions and I clearly knew the process and what to expect. And the skilled manner he communicated with opposing counsel was perfect. When it came down to negotiating with my spouse’s counsel, I knew I had selected the best attorney for my situation. What I noticed and appreciated was that he was using just the right amount of pressure with opposing counsel as was necessary. If you find yourself in this situation, you will want a seasoned professional like Mr. Park on your side. I'm very grateful that he was my attorney and not the opposition!
Chris is a smart and aggressive attorney for his clients. Chris always tries to reach a fair settlement of his cases. I’ve represented clients when Chris was the opposing counsel and while he is professional and amicable to work with, he does not back off on what he needs to do for his client
Kevin Park of Arizona Estate Planning Attorneys was just what I needed for my divorce. He was very approachable and personable. He was quick to recognize what I needed and provided it quickly and efficiently. I hope to never need a divorce lawyer again, but if I know anyone else who does, I will definitely recommend Kevin.
I feel that Tracey Van Wickler is certainly one of the best family lawyers around. She is logical, intelligent, and truly cares. Tracey always does what is in the clients best interest, does it well, timely and with integrity. She is good at keeping her clients informed as to what is going on and clear in her communication both written and verbally. I have recommended Tracey to other people and will continue to recommend her. I recommended Tracey to someone who was having issues with their ex-wife and his response was, “I know how good she is because I went up against her and she ate me for lunch”. This same person was so impressed with her, he even recommended her to someone else, WOW, that is impressive! I am exceptionally happy with her attention to detail, her ability to explain things in ways that are easy to understand, as well as her ability to keep everyone focused on the most important things. I would recommend Tracey to anyone who may be in need of her services.
I retained Hildebrand Law after interview a number of firms in the valley. Working with Michael C. was incredibly easy and informative. My case progressed in such a organized and thought out way to ensure that my needs were met. Michael was incredibly proactive and was able to see far ahead into my case to steer clear of some roadblocks. I would not hesitate to recommend Michael Clancy, and Hildebrand Law in general, to anyone.
I have worked with Hildebrand law for about 8 years. They are always ready to serve, provide guidance and give you a few options. When they provide you options they also take the time to walk you through the pros and cons of each and give you a recommendation of what is best, but will listen to you and support whatever course you choose after making and educated choice. I’d recommend them to my closest friends and feel Chris Hildebrand is now a friend to me.
Despite the unfortunate situation I found myself in, Chris Hildebrand @ Hildebrand Law helped me maneuver every step with professionalism, expertise, and even a sensitivity that was an added bonus.Chris and his staff helped me even when I didn't know I needed the help. In other words. . . they made sure we did not leave anything undone. And in the rare instance we needed the expertise of another professional, Chris knew exactly who to recommend.Chris also knew, because of his experience, what to anticipate down the road of litigation. That meant we were better prepared to meet the challenges head on, which lead to a more equitable and fair outcome. I appreciated that Chris did his best to meet my every need in a timely fashion, even if I had a simple question that required only a phone call or e-mail or if we needed to talk face-to-face.I highly recommend Chris Hildebrand @ Hildebrand Law, PC.