How Lawyers Can Help in Divorce Mediation
The use of mediation in divorce cases has become widespread. If a divorcing couple can resolve matters between themselves with the help of a neutral third party called a mediator, they can:
- Save legal fees on divorce litigation
- Avoid the nastiness of a court battle with a former romantic partner
Many states now require couples to try to mediate their differences before taking certain cases to court.
Before attending a mediation session, it's crucial to understand your position by asking:
- Is it better to take the matter to court?
- What should I ask for in mediation?
- What's the best negotiation strategy?
Individuals entering the mediation process often arrange for a family law attorney to coach them and provide advice.
What Is Divorce Mediation?
Mediation is a private and informal way to settle conflicts outside of court. In divorce mediation, an impartial third party (a divorce mediator) helps a couple try to negotiate a settlement agreement between them. The issues you mediate might include:
Unlike judges, mediators don't determine who wins and who loses. Instead, they help the divorcing couple reach a solution on their own that works for them.
Mediation typically occurs in several stages: introduction, information gathering, private meetings with the mediator, negotiation, and a final resolution. It can take many mediation sessions before the parties reach a divorce agreement.
If the mediation is unsuccessful in bridging opposing positions, a couple can return to the more traditional adversarial process in which their lawyers will negotiate and litigate on their behalf.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Divorce Mediation? What's a Legal Adviser's Role?
While you don't need to have a divorce lawyer in mediation, it can be a good idea to speak to one to know exactly what your legal rights are.
If you underestimate the strength of your legal position, you may "give away the farm"; on the other hand, if you drive too hard a bargain, you may cause the other party to walk away from negotiations.
Before starting mediation, it's helpful to be familiar with your state's laws on marital property, how child support is calculated, and so forth. An attorney can educate you on these matters.
An attorney can also assist you in the following ways:
- Explain the rules and procedures of mediation
- Help select a mediator (if the mediator isn't chosen by the court)
- Prepare you for mediation
- Help you decide potential settlements
- Review a proposed settlement for missing details or other potential issues
- Prepare formal divorce paperwork if you reach a mediated settlement
Be sure to have an attorney review any agreement hammered out in mediation sessions before you sign it.
How to Select a Divorce Mediation Lawyer
When choosing a mediation legal adviser, look for the same things you would when choosing any other type of professional: evidence of training and relevant experience.
Most divorce attorneys know about mediation and have experience working as mediation advisers. In many states, lawyers can obtain certifications in specialty areas, so consider hiring a legal adviser who has been board certified in family law.
Questions About Divorce Mediation? Talk to an Attorney
It can be extremely valuable to have legal advice when mediating a divorce case to ensure that you know your rights and can negotiate from a well-informed position. Consider contacting a local divorce attorney to help you achieve the best possible mediation outcome.