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How to Effectively Use Mediation to Settle your Atlanta Divorce – Part I

In part one of our ten part series on how to effectively use mediation, we will examine steps to take to make sure you and your Atlanta divorce lawyer are ready for mediation. This blog will also work if you and your spouse plan on using mediation to settle your case without an Atlanta Divorce lawyer. The first item that we will cover is BEING PREPARED.

Assets & Liabilities – It is essential that both you and your Atlanta divorce lawyer have a clear understanding of exactly what is in the marital state, a complete list of all of the assets and liabilities, current account balances, and current business evaluations, if applicable. Many Atlanta divorce lawyers like to use a “marital balance sheet,” or “MBS.” This is a sheet (usually prepared in Microsoft Excel) that contains the assets and liabilities of the marriage. It is most helpful when you have documentation to support the numbers on the MBS. Then, if called upon, you can then prove any of the figures.

When you and your spouse do not have a clear picture of your assets and liabilities, respective incomes, needs, and what the custody issues are, mediation and negotiating will be wasted and bad feelings will be fostered because you and your spouse will not be talking about the same thing and you may end up arguing over issues which are really non-issues. Moreover, if you are paying the mediator and your Atlanta divorce lawyer by the hour, it is in your best financial interests to stay focused on mediating the core of your case, not peripheral issues.

Child & Spousal Support – You and your spouse should prepare an accurate budget, normally in the form of a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit that sets out your basic needs. You should exchange all documents, such as bank and other account statements, pay stubs, tax returns, insurance plans, pension information, etc., that provide a complete picture of you and your spouse’s financial situation. This is relatively simple if you and your spouse are W-2 wage earners and own a house and a simple retirement plan.

It can be more difficult if there is significant separate property involved, complex compensation issues (e.g. stock options), or other complicated financial situations. Obviously, if you and your spouse have filed a financial statement recently in which you have signed under oath that all assets and liabilities have been disclosed on the statement, that document should be provided to both of you. If you have a more complicated estate, an Atlanta divorce lawyer can be invaluable, especially since more complicated marital estates are often laden with tax complications.

Providing the other side with this information before meeting can save time, especially if the Atlanta divorce lawyers can agree on the MBS ahead of time. Once the Atlanta divorce lawyers have the same information and can agree on such issues as income, the property at issue, and you and your spouse’s net worth, the chances of a successful settlement negotiation are tremendously heightened.

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