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What To Do Before Attending Mediation

The most popular question I get from friends and clients who are scheduled for a mediation is "what should I do now?". So I thought I'd take a moment to lay out my #1 suggestion: Want List and Need List

Create a list of your wants and of your needs. But aren't those the same? Nope. Let me illustrate with an example. Let's say you are getting divorced and you and your spouse have young children, a Honda Accord valued at $18,000 that is paid for, a Lexus valued at $26,000 with $13,000 remaining on the car loan, a diamond ring valued at $8,000 and men's Rolex watch valued at $10,000.

Now in this example, you may want:


Full timesharing with the kids

The diamond ring

The Lexus

For your spouse to pay the remaining car loan on the Lexus

In contrast, what you need is:


Meaningful and substantial involvement in your children's lives (acitively parenting your children)

Reliable transportation

No debt and financial stability

There are a lot of assumptions made in this example for the sake of simplicity (both parents are good parents, no other debts, the desire for particular jewelry is more practical than sentimental, etc). But my point is that there is a difference between what you want out of a divorce versus what you need out of a divorce. And knowing the difference is key, because you empower yourself with many more ways to achieve your goals when you distinguish needs from your wants.

If you only know your wants, you limit how you see the solution to your dispute. You either hold out to get everything on your Want List (fat chance your spouse will agree to everything), or you have to give up some things on your Want List. After all, you can spend your entire mediation trying to bargain or compromise your wants, and then walk out with a settlement that doesn't really satisfy you, or with no settlement at all.

There are many more ways to achieve the items on the Need List. You can take the Honda Accord without debt, and the Rolex watch which you can sell for more money. Or you can take the Lexus and the Rolex and diamon ring, using the sale of the watch and ring to pay off the Lexus car loan, and returning the leftover money from the sale to your spouse. Or take the Honda Accord and the ring. Or the Honda Accord and half of the money from the sale of the watch and ring. My point is that you have greater options and flexibility when you focus on achieving your Need List as opposed to your Want List. The Want List will inevitable require you to give up some of your wants to reach resolution. Your Need List is much more likely to be achieved without giving up anything on that list.

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