Divorce mediator vs lawyer? When people contact me, a divorce mediator, I am their first stop in their divorce process. Most of the time, it is their first divorce, so they have a very steep learning curve as to what they need to do to begin. They also are unclear as to whether they should hire an attorney or a mediator. There are good reasons why you should consider both options. A family law attorney can be used in several different ways, should you be thinking of hiring one for your divorce. We will discuss some of them now.
Family law attorney
Even if you are not interested in litigation, it is a wise decision to at least consult with a family law attorney. A good attorney will not guide you towards litigation, but empower you to make the best decision for yourself. Often, people ask if they can mediate if they have already hired an attorney. The answer is a resounding yes! The attorney typically does not attend mediation but will be there for you to answer any questions regarding your decisions and choices. They can alert you to any adverse consequences in the future based on your decisions today. A good family law attorney will be fully supportive of your desire to get through the divorce process using mediation.
Attorneys can only represent one party, so the two of you should each get your own attorney. The laws can be interpreted differently, which is why a couple cannot be represented by the same attorney. Additionally, if you call and interview an attorney, your spouse can no longer hire that attorney and vice versa. So, if you are trying to work through this amicably, it is best practice to each have a separate list of attorneys to call and interview. That way, you will not be wasting your time speaking to an attorney who you ultimately cannot hire due to a conflict of interest.
When asking yourself divorce mediator vs lawyer, know that the two of you have to agree on who the mediator is, but the two of you are required by law to have your own attorney. That is, you are not allowed to share an attorney.
When should you consider litigation? Litigation should be a last-ditch effort in the case of divorce, but there are some instances where it is unavoidable. If you feel like your spouse will not play fairly, give you what you would normally get under the law, or not be willing to negotiate a fair deal, your only recourse might be to pursue litigation. This is especially not ideal if you have children, as it can adversely affect everyone involved.
Litigation, by its very nature, can turn people into bitter enemies. It also does not encourage cooperation and collaboration. Litigation encourages people to fight for everything. Unless you feel there is no way to work things out between the two of you in a fair and equitable manner, you should try to avoid litigation altogether. It is a costly process for everyone. It will drain your finances, affect your mental state negatively and potentially cost you your health, due to chronic stress.
A divorce mediator can help you discuss matters and negotiate them in a relatively calm manner. The mediator will make sure that all communication is free of misunderstandings or miscommunication. They will keep the conversation as calm as possible. A mediator is a third-party neutral. They will not advocate for either side. However, they are there to support clear communication for all parties. Mediations can take place in person or online. Mediations can be in joint sessions, which means everyone is together. If a joint session is not comfortable, the parties can opt for caucus or shuttle mediation, which is where they separate into different rooms and the mediator goes back and forth between the rooms. The mediator brings the negotiation back and forth.
The mediator can also use strategies to break an impasse. These strategies are only available to couples if there is a mediator. For example, each side can let the mediator know what their bottom line is. The mediator can keep that information confidential. They will only relay whether the parties will be able to come to a resolution based on what was told to the mediator. Another strategy can be where the mediator asks the parties to each draft their own idea of an agreement. The mediator would then select the most reasonable agreement. The argument is that this would incentivize parties to draft a fair agreement in the hopes that their agreement will be chosen by the mediator.
Pros and Cons
There are pros and cons to shuttle mediation. Pros are that the parties don’t have to face each other if they are contentious. They have space to think and discuss their options. The parties can have private time with the mediator, which can be helpful. They can vent to the mediator without the mediator needing to take any negative energy and communicate it to the other side. This helps keep the conversation moving forward and in a positive fashion. The private conversations are held in confidence. Cons are that it can take twice as long to complete since everything has to be relayed twice. This would not only mean twice as long but twice as expensive.
Collaborative divorce is where you do not have to choose a divorce mediator vs lawyer. The two not only collaborate but add other professionals into the mix as well. These professionals can be mental health professionals and child psychologists. It is by far the most well-rounded and healthy way to go through a divorce. You will have a strong team to help you through the divorce process. Your collaborative divorce team will take care of your mental and emotional well-being. The process is designed so that there is the least amount of hostility between the two parties. The downside to collaborative divorce is that it can be fairly pricey. Furthermore, should the divorce process turn more contentious, the lawyers who worked with you through the collaborative divorce process will no longer be able to represent you.
There are many options to consider as you move towards your divorce. Arming yourself with enough knowledge to make an educated decision for yourself is critical. Interview several professionals as you consider each option. Compare pricing to see what is out there, as there is a wide range of prices. Make sure that you hire professionals with who you feel comfortable. The team you choose to help you go through the divorce will be by your side during one of the most difficult times of your life. They will learn intimate details of your life. Ensure that you trust them and that they sincerely care about getting you through the process as easy as possible.