To maximize the chance of a successful mediation, you must be prepared. You cannot show up for mediation without thinking about about your case and expect it to settle favorably.
The best way to settle any lawsuit is to be ready to try the case. The same is true in family law cases. If you are prepared to take the case to trial, you will know the strengths and weaknesses of your case. When you are not prepared to go to trial, you are shooting in the dark. You have to know your case. You have to know the likely or probable outcome in court. You have to know your best case scenario and your worst case scenario. You gather that information and determine your position through experienced legal advice.
This is not to say, however, that you have to do the same amount of preparation in every case, or in every stage of the same case. The amount of preparation for trial or mediation is in proportion to the nature of the case, the issues at stake, the distance between the positions of the parties, and the amount the parties have to spend to take the case to court. Sometimes the best time to mediate a family law case is at the very beginning, when neither side has postured for trial, and when the parties are still able to communicate. In this situation, the parties will not be as prepared as they would be later in the case, but they may be able to settle the case at great savings of money and emotional expense.
If the parties are unable to settle the case early, then they will enter the discovery phase of the case, where information is gathered and exchanged and the sides start getting ready for trial. At this stage, the parties can and should spend more time preparing for trial and mediation.
To prepare appropriately for mediation you should:
1. Meet with your lawyer before mediation. If you go to mediation without meeting with your lawyer beforehand, then you’ve got the wrong lawyer. If the only thing your attorney tells you before mediation is where and when the mediation will occur, and he or she shows up and reviews the file in the mediator’s office, then you need to find a new attorney.
2. Provide your lawyer with all of the information he or she requests of you. Don’t wait until the last minute: your lawyer will need to review and digest your information in advance.
3. Review the information your attorney has obtained from the other side. This will allow you to get an idea of what to expect from the other side. Your attorney may even need your help in interpreting the documents the other party has provided.
To sum up, if you want to settle your case before trial–and you should–then you need to be prepared for mediation. Prepare less and mediate early if possible. If not possible, then prepare for mediation by preparing for trial. When you are ready to try the case, you are ready to mediate.