Some things we've learned over the years...
Divorcing parents must reach agreement on several issues related to their children. Prior to meeting with your mediator, consider your preferences with regard to the following areas:
1. Parenting time. The court will want to know how you and your spouse wish to divide parenting time. What schedule makes the most sense for your family? Consider your children's schedules, your work schedules, and the distance between the your homes.
2. Decision making. Formerly referred to as "legal custody," the court now wants to know which parent will have responsibility for making decisions for the children in 4 main areas: medical, educational, religious upbringing, and extra-curricular. Parents often choose to have "joint decision-making" responsibility for all 4 areas. Occasionally, however, parents may agree that one parent will have "sole decision-making" responsibility for one or more areas.
3. Division of expenses. In addition to child support (which covers contributions to a child's food, shelter, and clothing expenses while the child is with the other parent,) the court will want to know how you and your spouse will be dividing other expenses for the children. Who will provide and pay for health insurance, out of pocket medical expenses, child care, school tuition and fees, extracurricular activities, etc?
4. Introductions of new partners. An area that provokes a lot of discord between divorced co-parents is the introduction of a new partner to the children. The court wants to minimize conflict in this area and therefore wants you to consider ahead of time agreements around these introductions. Would you want it to happen only in the case of a serious committed relationship? Only when a relationship is at least 1 year old? Would you want a heads up from your ex prior to them making the introduction? Do you want additional agreements around overnights with a partner when the children are also present?
5. Holidays. Planning for post divorce holiday time with the children can be tricky. Think of ideas for a holiday schedule that honor important family traditions, allow for the children to celebrate with both parents (whether you are alternating years or splitting the actual day), and allow for travel if you plan to visit family out of town.
Thinking about your preferences with regard to each of these areas ahead of time will allow your mediation session time to be spent more efficiently.