Most separating couples want to finalise their separation without stepping foot inside the Family Court. Mediation is one way to achieve this. To make the most of mediation, you need to be organised. Preparation is the key. Here are some steps to help you in your preparation:
Disclose all your assets and liabilities
You have a duty to disclose all your asset and liabilities at the mediation. Failure to do so could result in the Family Court overriding any agreement you reach. Some of the types of documents you should show to your former partner prior to or at the mediation include:
- details of your income or earnings (whether paid directly to you or not);
- details of your superannuation (e.g. a recent superannuation annual statement);
- details of any trusts, companies or businesses in which you have an interest in (e.g. a letter from your accountant estimating what such entities are worth);
- details of property you have disposed of in the 12 months prior to and since you separated;
- copies of any appraisals or valuations of any real estate you own; and
- redbook or carsales.com estimates of the values of cars you own.
Once you have collected the information and documents, make an index and put the documents in lever arch files in clear plastic sleeves where you can locate them easily.
Do some preliminary investigations
If you don’t know what your former partner may own do some public searches such as the following:
- a “name search” with Landgate for any properties listed in the name of you and/or the other party;
- a “name” type search for the names of any businesses or companies in which you and/or the other party may have an interest in or be a director or officer in; and
- “Google” or search “Linked In/Facebook” the other party to see what information is available about them, their business interests, income or earning capacity.
Prepare an asset and liability schedule
Microsoft Excel spreadsheets are an excellent way to present what you understand to be the assets and liabilities to be divided between you and your former partner. Include 2 columns – one that sets out your position on values and one that sets out your former partner’s position on value. This helps identify any differences between you very quickly.
Think of a variety of proposals
Mediation involves compromise. Neither you nor your former partner will necessarily get their “wish list”. Think about what the possible outcomes could be and what they will mean for you. For example, if you are hoping to keep the home have you explored your capacity to refinance the loan plus a cash adjustment to the other party? Financial planning advice regarding your future needs is beneficial. It can identify what from the assets to be divided between you and your former partner you need, to achieve future goals.
Finally, obtaining legal advice prior to the mediation is important. It will help identify issues to be discussed at mediation and how you can document any agreement reached. Further, your lawyer will be able to assist or complete these preparation steps for you. Remember, the split you receive is likely to have strong implications for your future financial security. Investing in the appropriate advice before mediation reduces the risk of you entering into an agreement that is unjust or inequitable.
Debbie Clinch, Consultant, Clairs Keeley