The Mediation Process

Getting Started

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You can start mediation at any point before or after separation and whether you are in the middle of court proceedings or have just begun to consider divorce and don't intend to "go to court."

Initial Session

The first mediation session is an opportunity for you and your spouse/partner to meet me, ask your questions about the mediation process, and decide if mediation is right for you. Up to the first 1/2 hour of this session is a free consultation to help you make this important decision. If you choose to continue, the mediator will ask you to sign a mediation contract and mediation will begin.  Specific interim agreements regarding finances, living arrangements and child schedules (if applicable) will be addressed in the first session.

The first session includes an explanation of the divorce process, including divorce filing and timelines in the District Court of appropriate jurisdiction.

The length of each mediation session is two hours. Appointments are typically scheduled every two weeks, allowing you time to gather necessary information, consult with professionals of your own choosing, and accomplish any other necessary steps that are outlined at the end of each mediation session. Clients may communicate with the mediator between sessions via telephone, e-mail or written correspondence.

Your mediator obtains all pertinent information and provides a specific list of financial documents required for the process.

Financial Decisions

One of the most difficult parts of any separation or divorce the uncertainty it places on your financial future. Most people come to mediation with concerns about who will keep the house, what kind of financial support they are entitled to, and who will pay the bills.

At River Mediation, I will work with you to gather all pertinent financial information for your situation and present it in a way that you can understand, regardless of your previous financial knowledge. Once you have provided the mediator with your financial information, you will receive a Financial Summary. This critical document puts all of the facts and figures in one place and helps everyone understand the issues that must be decided during the mediation.

The Financial Summary includes:

  • Income from all sources, including employment, self-employment, partnerships, corporations, rental real estate, trusts, and all other sources

  • Additional compensation and incentives, including stock options, stock purchase plans, profit sharing and delayed compensation

  • Current and future living expenses

  • Health insurance

  • Life insurance

  • Tax returns

  • Real Estate

  • Pensions and Retirement Accounts

  • Brokerage and Bank Accounts

  • Stocks and Savings Bonds

  • Trusts

  • Accounts for Children

  • Liabilities, including credit cards, promissory notes and all other debts

The mediator will walk you and your spouse through each item to ensure that you each understand the asset and your options in divorce - for example, what kinds of retirement assets can be divided at divorce and the tax implications of various options.

Asset Division and Liability Allocation

The division of assets typically begins with a discussion of the New Mexico Statute on separate or community property and an in-depth review of your Financial Summary to determine the status of each asset or liability owned by you and/or your spouse. Other factors that play into a division of property are your own sense of fairness, relationship history factors, non-legal needs of you and your spouse, prior understandings or agreements, personal beliefs, and practical realities that might make some options work better than others.

We will look at the marital house and the financial and tax implications of sole or continued joint ownership and possible options for current or future sale or buy-out.

All other assets are discussed, such as retirement plans, brokerage accounts, stocks and bonds, vehicles, business valuations, and house contents. The mediator will help identify tax planning issues to minimize or eliminate tax upon transfer of assets.

Liability decisions include responsibility for mortgage notes, equity lines, car loans, promissory notes, life insurance, pension loans, credit card and all other debt.

Custody Issues

When minor children are involved, mediation gives you the opportunity to determine legal custody and to negotiate a Parenting Plan appropriate to you and your children, as required by New Mexico Statute.

The mediator will begin with an explanation and discussion of sole and shared custody in New Mexico, discuss the differences between "legal custody" and time with your children, and help you understand the practical and legal significance of different parenting arrangements. Typical parenting arrangements will be reviewed and holiday and vacation time will be looked at as part of a comprehensive agreement.

With training in child development and age-appropriate parenting arrangements, the mediator will help you craft an agreement that maintains your bonds to your children and protects them from the difficulties that divorce may present.

Child Support

Upon a review of your parenting arrangement and each parent's income, your mediator will assist you in completing the appropriate New Mexico Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. You will discuss and make decisions about responsibility for extraordinary child expenses, such as private school, camp, lessons, sports fees, and any other extraordinary expenses that apply to your child.

Your mediator will offer the opportunity to make decisions about future adjustments to child support, which may reduce or eliminate the need to return to court to adjust child support in the future.

Responsibility for your child's future post-secondary educational expenses is addressed.

Spousal Support (Alimony)

A review of both income and living expense is a major consideration for spousal support. Your mediator will review the New Mexico Statute on spousal support help you assess whether it is applicable to your situation, including rehabilitative, transitional and indefinite support. Nonbinding guidelines for alimony from the New Mexico Supreme Court will be considered as one source of information about the applicability of spousal support, along with an analysis of your income and expenses now and in the future.

Insurance Benefits

Medical and dental insurance coverage for each spouse and any children, a major concern in divorce, will be addressed, including options for continued coverage and responsibility for premium costs and uninsured expenses. We will review options for continuing coverage and responsibility for the payment of premium costs, as well as responsibility for uninsured medical and dental expenses.

Current life and disability insurance policies will be reviewed, including benefit amounts and currently named beneficiaries. Future obligations to maintain life and/or disability insurance will be discussed, along with options for beneficiary designation and possible arrangements for trust accounts for children.

Your mediator will point out insurance protection which may be required in conjunction with support and property division obligations in your agreement - but the most important factor in determining a level of insurance is your own need to secure the future of you and your children if your former spouse's ability to contribute resources of money and time were to end.

Final Agreement

At the conclusion of your mediation sessions, your mediator will draft a Marital Settlement Agreement - a comprehensive reflection of agreements reached in Mediation. Your comprehensive agreement will include:

  • Custody of minor children and shared parenting or visitation schedules

  • Child support

  • College costs, educational trusts, and custodial accounts

  • Tax filing status and exemptions for you and your children

  • Martial residence: buyout, transfer, sale, joint ownership, and tax issues

  • Capital gains and other tax consequences upon sales and transfers of property

  • Medical insurance coverage for children

  • Medical coverage for an ex-spouse

  • Life insurance coverage

  • Spousal support (also known as "alimony")

  • Self-employed, family, or other business

  • Retirement/pension plans: 401(k), 403(b) TIAA-CREF, IRA, and other plans

  • Brokerage, bank, and investment accounts

  • Restricted stock, stock options, stocks, bonds, and life insurance cash surrender value

  • Federal and State taxes

  • Trusts: beneficial interests, irrevocable and revocable

  • Investment/rental property

  • Vehicles, house contents, and miscellaneous assets

  • Liabilities: charge card debt, car loans and lease, mortgage and equity line, promissory note, educational debt, and all other debt

If you are not using attorneys, the mediator will provide additional forms that are required by the appropriate District Court to file for divorce. In most cases, you will not be required to appear in court, but will receive notification once a District Court Judge has approved your agreement and finalized your divorce.

David River