Free Florida Divorce Mediation Checklist: How to Prepare

A divorce mediation checklist is a collection of materials and documentation that can assist spouses in preparing for the divorce mediation process.

A divorce mediation checklist consists of two main components. The first component is a checklist on how to prepare for divorce mediation. This divorce mediation preparation checklist includes items such as questions to ask at mediation, topics to discuss, and strategies to use. The second component is a checklist for the mediation session itself. This checklist includes items such as what to bring to divorce mediation (financial documents, contact, information, directions), what to wear to mediation, and,” a list of assets, debts, and other marital property.

A divorce mediation checklist is helpful for divorcing spouses because it increases the likelihood of a successful outcome because spouses are fully prepared, increases efficiency because all important topics and documents are prepared beforehand, and increases confidence because each spouse feels fully prepared to articulate their needs and concerns.

A divorce mediation session checklist can be useful to start navigating the mediation process.  The proper paperwork in place makes it easier for the spouses to negotiate  a fair division of marital assets. Financial disclosures of assets, debts, and income made voluntarily by divorcing couples are frequently beneficial. If these documents are gathered in advance, the drawn-out discovery process in the event that the divorce goes to court is avoided.

What to Include in a Divorce Mediation Preparation Checklist

When preparing for Florida divorce mediation, it is helpful to participants to consider topics that will be discussed during the mediation session such as child custody, child support, division of marital assets, spousal support, and future communication procedures, questions that should be asked during mediation, what to ask for in mediation, and mental and physical preparations such as eating well, and staying hydrated.

The divorce mediation checklist teaches spouses what procedures to take before agreeing to mediation, how to prepare for mediation, and what issues to expect when negotiation begins.

 Preparing for contentious topics such as child custody, spousal support, and the division of assets can greatly increase the likelihood of successful mediation.

Child Custody Goals and Solutions

Child custody (time-sharing) laws in Florida support the idea that both parents should share the responsibility of raising the child.  To prepare for mediation, spouses should familiarize themselves with child custody arrangements such as legal custody, physical custody, and sole custody, in order to determine which is best suited for the needs of their children. They should also be prepared to discuss time-sharing schedules, child support, and the best methods of communication after divorce. 

Child Support Goals and Solutions

In Florida,  child support is the responsibility of both parents to support their children until they reach the age of 18. Child support is based on an “income shares” model in the state of Florida. Payments are determined using Florida’s child support guidelines.

The following is a list of child-related costs spouses should be prepared to discuss in mediation.

  • Healthcare and medical costs
  • Childcare costs
  • Education expenses
  • Expenses for extracurricular activities such as sports or music lessons

In preparation for child support negotiations, spouses should collect and organize relevant financial statements to help calculate income and expenses. These will be used in conjunction with a list of child-specific expenses in order to determine child support payments.

The following are documents that should be collected and organized before the divorce mediation session. 

  • Statements relating to income from a salary, commissions, tips, disability etc.
  • Tax returns
  • Health insurance payments
  • Union dues
  • Retirement payments
  • Alimony or child support payments from a previous marriage

These documents help the mediator determine a fair and equitable division of childcare expenses.

The Division of Marital Assets & Liabilities  

Divorce entails the division of marital property acquired by the spouses during the marriage. During a divorce, all types of personal property are divided between the parties, including homes, vehicles, and clothing.

In preparation for mediation both spouses must complete a financial affidavit that lists their income, assets (bank accounts, brokerage accounts, real estate ect), and liabilities. After reviewing the financial affidavits of both spouses,the mediator helps divide marital assets. The more detailed the information in the affidavits, the easier the process of dividing the marital assets during divorce mediation.

A well-prepared list helps in easing the process.

The following documents should be collected and organized before the mediation session. 

  • Documents pertaining to real estate assets such as deeds and loan documents with current valuations. 
  • Balance statements for all bank accounts, including checking, savings, certificates of deposit, and money markets.
  • Current statements of all retirement accounts owned by each spouse, including corporate pension plans, 401(K)s, 403(b)s, 457s, Traditional, Roth, and SEP IRAs. 
  • The estimated value of valuable assets including homes, jewelry, antiques, art, and others.
  • The value of any enterprises owned by either or both spouses.
  • Current child-related account statements. If spouses have many children, enter account information for each.
  • Include car make, model, and year.
  • Employment benefit statements. This includes cash and stock incentives.
  • Provide copies of pay stubs or income statements for both parties.

The following is a list of liabilities to include.

  • Statements  for mortgages, home equity loans, and credit lines on all owned properties.
  • Declarative statements regarding private loans. These may be written or verbal agreements that identify spouses as debtors.
  • Car loan statements .
  • College loan statements 
  • The most recent credit card bills.
  • Pending lawsuits in which one spouse or both are named as plaintiffs.

The following are additional statements that can be collected before divorce mediation. 

  • Life insurance policies
  • spouse-owned disability policies.
  • Corporate tax returns over the past three   (for business owners). 
  • Copies of trust-related paperwork.
  • Copies of pre- and post-nuptial agreements between spouses. 
  • Copies of any wills created during the marriage.

Accurate documentation can help speed the mediation process as well as ensuring both sides receive an equitable percentage of the marital assets.  

How Will Investment & Retirement Accounts be divided

Retirement accounts are considered marital assets and are therefore subject to Florida’s laws regarding the equitable division of assets. Retirement accounts such as 401(k)s, IRAs, Roth IRAs, and pensions all qualify as marital assets.

In preparation for mediation, couples should devise a fair method of dividing these assets.

How Will the Marital Home Be Divided?

Preparing for divorce mediation includes finding a solution for which spouse will retain the marital home. There are several options for dividing the marital home including selling the house and dividing the proceeds, one spouse buying out the other based on the market value of the home, and one spouse living in the home temporarily.

In cases where children are involved, it is common for the spouse with physical custody of the child or children to keep the marital home. 

Spousal Support (Alimony) Goals and Solutions

Spousal support, also known as alimony, consists of recurring monthly payments made by one spouse to the other upon separation or divorce. 

Preparing a compelling case for spousal support includes providing financial documents such as income statements (paystubs), tax returns, and budget information. 

The more information each party collects, the faster the alimony case proceeds because the parties will not have to spend as much time collecting all of these papers. In addition to gathering divorce-related paperwork, the parties should be prepared to pass over personal documents.

  • Identification (e.g., Social Security number, passport, driver license).
  • Bank account statements.
  • Documents related to new living arrangements (e.g., apartment lease if moved out of marital home).
  • List of personal property and its value.

The parties should acquire all legal documents that may be pertinent to their case and could potentially be used as evidence. The list below contains documents that should be acquired in preparation for divorce mediation.

  • Prior divorce decrees.
  • Marriage licenses from previous relationships.
  • Individual, joint, and gift tax returns.
  • Wills (particularly if the couple has a joint will).
  • Insurance or benefit policies.
  • Documents pertaining to a jointly owned business.

Preparing for spousal support discussions requires gathering documents and questions that prove a clear and absolute need for spousal support payments. A number of pertinent documents that a spouse seeking alimony should compile prior to attending mediation session are those that substantiate their financial necessity.

Future Communications and Procedures

For future communications between divorcing parties, it is important to be prepared to discuss issues such as what will happen if one party doesn’t follow through on the terms of the agreement, how tax information will be shared, who will pay the lawyers’ fees, how to settle disagreements, and the best way to communicate with each other in the future.

Although it may be challenging, it is ideal to maintain an open line of communication with the spouse for the exchange of information.  It is comprehensible that some divorced couples find it impossible to communicate with their former partners. The greater the level of cooperation and communication, the speedier and simpler the divorce will be.

Unexpected Disagreements

It is common for unexpected disagreements to come up during divorce mediation. Each spouse should prepare for this circumstance as much as possible to allow for solutions that are fair to both sides. A mediator will help minimize these disagreements by establishing a process for dealing with disagreements that come up during the mediation session.

How to mentally and physically prepare for Divorce Mediation

Mental and physical Preparations for divorce preparation include physical well-being, what to wear, and mental preparations for mediation.

A sound body and mind is important to prepare mentally and physically for divorce mediation. Mediation can take hours, and by the end of the day, spouses may be physically and emotionally exhausted. Spouses will be able to make the most of the process by maintaining patience, an open mind, and an awareness of what is non-negotiable.

Mental and physical preparation for divorce mediation helps to focus on the future, not the past, prepare for emotional triggers and be mindful of other partner’s emotions.

Preparations for Physical Well-Being during Divorce Mediation

The mediation of a divorce can be physically exhausting, It is essential to prioritize physical health during this time. The following are preparations for physical well-being during divorce mediation. 

  • Get a full night’s rest before attending the mediation session. This aids in maintaining alertness and concentration throughout the day.
  • Staying hydrated
  • Eating well. Bring your own refreshments, beverages, and lunch.
  • Dress well to be comfortable.

These preparations assist parties stay calm and attentive during mediation, enabling informed future decisions. By taking care of themselves, parties are more present, clear-headed, and positive.

What Should You Wear to Divorce Mediation?

Parties should wear comfortable clothing to a mediation session. Dressing up to the occasion can help promote a serious mindset. Dressing in layers can be helpful in case the mediation location is too hot or too cold. Being physically comfortable ensures each participant is not distracted during the mediation process.

Preparations for Mental Well-Being during Divorce Mediation

Mediation for divorce can be a drawn-out and emotionally taxing procedure.  It’s critical to look after mental health during divorce mediation. Before the mediation, parties should spend some time to consider their priorities and goals. Finding your triggers, practicing patience, open-mindedness, and creating coping skills to control your emotions are also beneficial during this process.

In divorce mediation, it is optimal to have effective cooperation. With the proper mental preparation, parties can ensure that the process runs as smoothly as feasible.

Parties must make sure to have a restful night’s sleep both before and during the mediation. One can never overstate the importance of getting enough sleep. During mediation, the parties will want to be as clear-headed and mentally sharp as possible. Getting enough sleep will help the parties present their position and articulate any claims more clearly. Better results can be achieved with the correct mindset. Getting enough sleep helps parties stay organized

What to include in a Divorce Mediation Session Checklist

A divorce mediation session checklist is a list of items to gather and bring to the divorce mediation session. The goal of this checklist is to ensure mediation participants have all necessary documentation, lists of important topics, questions, and goals, calendars, and payment methods to successfully complete the mediation process. 
A divorce mediation session checklist includes all of the following items.

  • Financial documentation , including bank statements, credit card statements, loan documents, and other pertinent data.
  • List of topics and objectives that divorcing couples must discuss and reach agreement on prior to filing for divorce.
  • Contact information for important people, such as close relatives, insurance brokers, financiers, financial planners, and other trusted advisors.
  • Calendar to organize mediation follow-ups or other appointments
  • Compilation of court documents.
  • List of marital assets, debts, and property. Lists of automobiles, bank accounts, property, valuables, and loans might aid property division conversations.
  • Payment method. 

 Preparing this information and documentation beforehand improves efficiency and streamlines the divorce mediation process.

What Paperwork Should You Bring to Divorce Mediation?

The paperwork that should be brought to mediation include.

  • A List of Important Topics and Goals
  • Financial Statements
  • Court documents
  • Contact Information
  • Calendar
  • Payment method

A List of Important Topics and Goals

Preparing a list of important topics and goals helps ensure that nothing is overlooked or forgotten during the mediation session. While the goal of mediation is to be non-confrontational, it can still be stressful. Having a physical list of goals and objectives allows the participant to check off all important items as they are discussed and resolved.

Examples of important topics and goals include child time-sharing arrangements, child support, spousal support, and the division of marital assets. 

A List of Assets, Liabilities, Property

In preparation for negotiating the division of assets each spouse should prepare a list of assets, liabilities, and property. Full financial disclosure is important because it gives both parties a clear understanding of the overall financial situation. 

This the list of assets, Liabilities and property to be included in the checklist.

  • Real estate holdings including marital home, vacation homes, and investment properties and their current value. 
  • A list of Jewelry, antiques,artwork, precious metals, stones, and other valuables ownership records, purchase receipts, or descriptions.
  • All automobile, boat, airplane, trailer, and motorhome titles and registrations.
  • Statements for all bank accounts, including savings, credit, and other deposit accounts.
  • Cash
  • Tax Refunds
  • Life Insurance and Disability Policies. 
  • Stocks/Bonds, Investment accounts, Secured Notes, and other liquid and non-liquid investment accounts.
  • Retirement accounts and Pensions.
  • Profit-Sharing, IRAs, Deferred Compensation, Annuities.
  • Partnerships and Other Business Interests.
  • Stock Purchase Plans.
  • Intellectual Property. Records of patents, trademarks, copyrights, licensing agreements, royalties, and other intellectual property.

Financial Statements

Financial statements are written reports that detail the financial activities and position of a company, individual, or other entity. Financial statements aid divorce settlement negotiations. Both parties are better equipped to negotiate a fair settlement when they have a clear financial picture.

Financial statements are important part of the divorce mediation process as it ensures financial transparency, which is necessary for a fair and acceptable property division. To finish the property division procedure, spouses require their financial disclosure statements.

Financial statements are used in mediation to help the mediator and parties comprehend the couple’s financial situation and identify issues that must be resolved.

  • The past 3-5 years of federal and state tax returns
  • W-2s, 1099s, and paystubs.
  • The Past 5 year’s financial statements of a business entity.
  • The last three months and the latest annual financial statements of spouses.
  • Year-end paystubs for the last five years
  • Provide accrued vacation hours if not shown on your paystubs.
  • Home deeds
  • Joint bank account statements
  • Mortgage and loan information
  • Private student loan and debt statements, i.e., financed home appliances or cell phones
  • Vehicle ownership and registration documents
  • Credit card, bank, and individual assets statements
  • Retirement/pension account statements and insurance declarations
  • Children’s health and school records (if relevant)
  • Children’s birth and adoption certificates
  • Marriage certificate and name change orders
  • Previous court orders related to custody, divorce, and alimony
  • Utility bills
  • Medical bills and health insurance declarations
  • Wills, healthcare proxies, and trust documents
  • Prenuptial or marital contracts
  • Employment contract or offer letter. These documents should show remuneration or benefits.
  • An overview of Employee Benefits for each spouse
  • Self-employed spouses provide 5 years of financial statements or P&L statements, Five-year business returns, Business valuation agreement or buy-sell deal, and recent business loan statements or credit applications within five years.

Court Documents

Court documents are several official forms that have been filed with or required by the court. During the mediation process, court documents are crucial as they allow spouses to discuss their case and legal status. Few court documents include.

  • Temporary Orders.
  • Copies of all judicial and legal documents pertaining to the divorce process that provide deadlines, guidelines, limits, or directions.
  • restraining orders on your spouse,
  • Documents pertaining temporary maintenance,
  • Documents pertaining to child custody and visitation.

Contact Information

Contact information for close family members, insurance agents, bankers, financial managers, and other trusted advisors should be compiled to help speed the mediation process when specific expertise is needed.

  • Basic data including social security number, birthdate, and complete name.
  • Contact details, including an email address, landline or cell phone number, and address.
  • The name, address, and phone number of each spouse’s employer ·       The other spouse’s contact details, including their address, phone number, and email address.

Calendar

The calendar is a crucial component of the checklist since it allows spouses to plan follow-up sessions for mediation or other appointments. It’s crucial to have a record of future obligations while talking about child custody.

Payment Method

The couple who is going to mediation has to pay for the session, unless they are using free mediation services.  Before the session spouse must ask the mediator about payment options and ensure that both parties agree on how to split the fees.

A List of Questions to Ask during Mediation

Rather than asking and answering the same questions over and over with their lawyer, certified divorce financial analyst, accountant, financial planner, or other team members, partners may want to group these questions together and ask several at once. This will save time and money.

A list of concerns and questions that spouses have should be kept in addition to the information provided above.  Make a running list of all the items that come up during the divorce and need further action.

Ask these questions during divorce mediation:

·   What if circumstances change?

·   How do you collaborate to prevent conflicts from affecting children?

·   How can you improve meeting/handover experiences for children?

·   What actions or words can exacerbate strained relationships?

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