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What you and the other party should know before a mediation

One of the most frustrating things I hear during a mediation is the following question: "How do I know he/she isn't lying? I can't take their word for it!" It's frustrating because it means the parties haven't exchanged all of the important information they need to make their decisions prior to the mediation.

Example #1: Party A and Party B are getting divorced and one of the things they need to do is divide their marital debts and marital assets. Party B has a retirement account but does not provide Party A with a statement showing the balance of the retirement account before the mediation. Likewise, Party A has credit card with a furniture store for furniture purchased for the marital home, but has not provided Party B with a statement showing the balance. How are the parties going to divide these things at mediation if they haven't received proof from the other person as to the value/amount?

Example #2: Parent A and Parent B divorced 5 years ago and are co-parenting their children. When they divorced, Parent B was earning a good salary with full benefits as a full time employee at Company B. As part of the divorce, Parent B agreed to pay $500 per month in child support to Parent A and agreed to be responsible for providing health insurance for their minor children as it was offered as a benefit of Parent B's employment. Now, Parent B has filed a Modification of Child Support based on Parent B's reduction in income because Company B lost a major client and could no longer afford to keep Parent B as a full time employee. Thus, Parent B is hired by Company B as an independent contractor making 75% of what Parent B used to earn, but no longer has employment benefits, including health insurance, and so Parent B has has to pay for a private health insurance plan for the children at twice the cost Parent B used to pay. Parent B has only provided Parent A with 1099 forms showing the new income and a statement showing the cost of the children's health insurance plan. How is Parent A supposed to believe the Parent B isn't just voluntarily under-employed and trying to get out of paying child support and voluntarily working less? Would a statement from Company B attesting to the involuntary nature of Parent B's switch from full time employee to independent contractor help Parent A to believe Parent B?

Before mediation, parties should already have exchanged all the information the other needs to agree with the party. Whether it's financial statements, letters from employers, report cards for kids, IEP reports, property appraisals, photographic proof of child locks for the pool gate at parent's new residence, etc., mediation can be THAT much more effective if the parties aren't being asked to simply trust the other party before signing a settlement agreement.

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