A Mediated Divorce Can Save you Time and Money
A pro se mediated divorce is appropriate for clients who are cordial and honest with each other and are in general agreement about how they wish to divide their assets and liabilities and the general contours of their parenting plan, if any.
This service is not appropriate for situations where one spouse feels victimized or bullied by the other, where the spouses are not speaking to each other, or where there is any kind of significant disagreement between the spouses.
Here is how the process works:
At the outset, the spouses need to decide if Mr. Lewis is going to function exclusively as a third party mediator, or if Mr. Lewis is going to officially represent one party and not the other.
If the answer is the former, the result of the mediation will be what is called a CR2A agreement. The parties would need to fill out the petition and all the other paperwork themselves, or perhaps hire some other lawyer to do it. This option is the cheaper of the two.
On the other hand, if the answer is the latter, the result will be the completed paperwork. Mr. Lewis cannot fill out the paperwork himself and be the official third-party mediator due to the Rules of Professional Conduct for the legal profession.
A non-binding opinion from the Washington State Bar states that filling out paperwork constitutes the practice of law. Law is based on the adversarial model. According to the opinion, a lawyer can be a mediator, or an advocate, but not both.
Either way, the process is the same. One of the spouses calls the office and discusses the case with Mr. Lewis. That conversation must indicate that the spouses are speaking to each other on a regular basis, that they are fairly close to a settlement, and that there are no allegations of domestic violence, drug/alcohol abuse, or child abuse.
The other spouse then must call the office and have a similar conversation with Mr. Lewis. The parties must then sign and return the fee agreement and the flat fee.
The parties then meet with Mr. Lewis for a settlement conference. The parties bring whatever evidence is necessary to have a productive discussion e.g. if the value of the family home is at issue, the parties bring their appraisals or comparative market analyses.
Mr. Lewis will ensure that each party has equal opportunity to discuss their issues and he will ask each party for their proposed solutions. He will explain the relevant law and help the parties determine the value of their assets and liabilities and who would benefit the most from an award of a particular asset.
The settlement conference should result in an agreement. If the parties have selected the mediator / CR2A option, and the parties, do, in fact, have an agreement, they will sign the CR2A before leaving. If, on the other hand, the parties have selected the advocate / final paperwork option, Mr. Lewis will prepare and circulate the final paperwork and, once finalized, enter them in court.
WHAT TO BRING TO YOUR MEDIATED, PRO SE DIVORCE
Mediated pro se divorce is appropriate for couples who basically trust each other and fully intend to cooperate and get through the divorce in a manner that conserves their financial and emotional resources and respects the dignity of the other side. It is not appropriate where one or both parties do not / does not believe the other, wants revenge, wants to "get" the other side, or wishes to hurt him/her in any way.
To maximize your chances of success, you should bring the following to the settlement conference. Basically, if you are unsure of, or can't remember, what something is worth or how much you owe, bring documentation. Document production shouldn't be onerous, but, at the same time, it should be sufficient to answer all relevant questions.
⦁ Work schedules of each parent;
⦁ Children's activity schedules;
⦁ Nanny or caregiver schedule, if a factor; and
⦁ Proposals / ideas about a residential schedule, where the
⦁ children will be on which vacations, etc.
⦁ Child Support & Maintenance
IF INCOME IS UNDISPUTED:
⦁ Current and year-end paystubs; and
⦁ Documentation of additional income if appropriate, e.g. royalty checks, trust fund distributions, etc.
IF INCOME IS DISPUTED, BRING THE ABOVE, PLUS:
⦁ Last two years fed. Income tax returns;
⦁ Last 6 mos. bank statements; and
⦁ Last 6 mos. paystubs.
ASSETS / LIABILITIES:
⦁ Current market value of house e.g. Zillow printout, CMA, appraisal;
⦁ Current mortgage balance;
⦁ Quarterly statements for last year of any investment, brokerage, or retirement account;
⦁ If at issue, estimated value of any personal property over $500;
⦁ Records indicating value of any other investment / asset not previously covered;
⦁ Current credit card statements; and
⦁ Current documentation of balance of any other loan / debt.
⦁ Any records establishing the date the claimed sep. property was acquired; and
⦁ Any records establishing the value of the claimed separate property.