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The Importance of Honesty in Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation is a wonderful tool for couples who want to end their marriage in a respectful and cost effective way. At Alternative Divorce Solutions, we like to think that divorce mediation is well suited for almost everyone. However, there are some exceptions. For example, if there has been domestic violence in the relationship, divorce mediation may not be a viable option. In addition, if one or both spouses is unwilling to be completely honest and upfront during the process, divorce mediation may not be a good fit.

First, even though your financials will remain confidential in mediation, you will still have to provide them. This is for three reasons: (1) California Family Code Section 2100 requires that full disclosure be made between parties to a divorce; (2) if your mediator does not know about all of your assets and debts, he or she will not be able to give you appropriate guidance; and (3) if either you or your spouse is unaware of all of the assets and debts, there is no way there can be an informed decision making process. To make sure your mediation is effective and that you end up with a settlement you feel is fair, it is imperative to prepare both your Schedule of Assets and Debts (FL-142) and your Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150). To ensure that this process is not daunting, our team at Alternative Divorce Solutions will provide you with an in-person explanation of how to fill these forms out correctly. In addition, we will provide you with a Next Steps packet that describes the forms in detail.

In addition to completing these forms as accurately and completely as possible, you will also need to provide the required attachments to these forms. These attachments include, but are not limited to mortgage statements, pay stubs, bank statements, credit card statements and tax returns. Again, because mediation is a completely confidential process, these forms will not get filed with the court. Instead, your mediator will copy your disclosure packets and assist you in exchanging the forms with your spouse. We call this process the Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure. To make sure that the court is aware that you cooperated in this process, we will prepare and file a form at the end of your mediation that states that you have completed all of your disclosure requirements.

If one spouse is concerned that there has been some financial dishonesty, it doesn’t have to mean that divorce mediation won’t work in that particular case. Instead, our team at ADS will bring in a neutral financial expert that can help uncover any undisclosed financial information. This professional can also help with valuing a family owned business, or determining a self employed spouse’s income for the purpose of calculating spousal and/or child support. Adding a neutral third party expert to the process adds an additional layer of security to the divorce mediation process. Finally, to ensure a fair mediation, we always recommend that you have your mediation agreement reviewed by an independent attorney of your choice. This attorney can review your disclosure packet and alert you to any potential inconsistencies.

In addition to financial transparency, you must also be willing to be up front about your needs. Open and honest communication is at the heart of any successful mediation, and you won’t end up feeling like you got a fair deal without it. It is important to voice your true concerns in mediation because your divorce mediator will have to know what is important to you to give you the best guidance possible. For example, if you want to keep your family residence because you feel it will provide you with emotional stability, explain that to your mediator. If you are scared that if you don’t get enough support you will run out of money when you grow old, tell your mediator. These are important facts. Your mediator must create a safe space for you to have these hard conversations.

At Alternative Divorce Solutions, we value honesty, transparency and integrity. Our team of highly-trained mediators will assist you in compiling your financial information and will create a calm environment in which to have important conversations.

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