How Lawyers Can Help in Divorce Mediation

The use of mediation in divorce cases has become widespread. If a couple can resolve matters between themselves with the help of a neutral person called a mediator, they will save on legal expenses and avoid the nastiness of litigating a dispute with a former romantic partner. Many states now require couples to attempt to mediate their differences before taking certain cases to court.

Before attending a mediation session, it's crucial to understand the strength of your legal position. What could you expect to achieve if you took the matter to court? What should you ask for in mediation? What's the best negotiation strategy?

Individuals entering the mediation process often arrange for attorneys to coach them and provide advice. Sometimes nonlawyers offer mediation consultation services too.

What Is Divorce Mediation?

Mediation is a private and informal way to settle disputes outside of court. In divorce mediation, an impartial third party helps a couple try to negotiate a settlement of the legal issues between them, such as division of marital property and debts, child custody, child support, and/or alimony. 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 caucuses with the mediator, negotiation, and a final resolution. It often takes several mediation sessions before the parties reach an 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.

A Legal Adviser's Role in Divorce Mediation

While you don't need to have an attorney in mediation, it can be a good idea to consult one. 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 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 evaluate 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 are knowledgeable about mediation and have had 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.

Related Resources

Questions About Divorce Mediation? Talk to an Attorney

It can be extremely valuable to have professional 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 serve as your legal adviser and help you achieve the best possible mediation outcome.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified divorce attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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