Mediation is a popular form of alternative dispute resolution that many couples use to attempt to settle their differences without resorting to litigation, and it’s easy to see why. In general, mediation is much cheaper than litigation, and it has the added benefit of allowing the parties to participate in the outcome, rather than putting it in the hands of a judge.
Mediation involves hiring a neutral third party – the mediator – to help facilitate you and your soon-to-be ex coming to an agreement about the issues that you need to resolve before your divorce can be finalized. So, do you need a lawyer if you are pursuing mediation?
While there is no requirement that you retain an attorney to represent you during mediation, it’s highly advisable to do so. The outcome of your divorce can affect nearly every aspect of your life, including your financial situation and your relationship with your children. With so much on the line, it’s important that you do everything that you can to protect your legal rights throughout the process of ending your marriage.
It’s important to note that retaining an attorney to represent you and provide you with legal counsel does not mean that you have to bring your lawyer to your mediation sessions. You can always speak for yourself at mediation and may choose only to involve your lawyer if you feel like you and your spouse are unable able to communicate constructively.
Here are some of the specific reasons it’s advisable to retain an attorney if you are pursuing divorce mediation.
A Divorce Lawyer Will Advise You about Your Rights
People who are married have certain rights with respect to their marital property and any children they may have. In addition, you may be entitled to or have obligations regarding spousal support (alimony) or child support. It’s important that you fully understand your rights before you go into mediation, as it’s important to know what you could demand before you start making concessions or negotiating on specific matters. When you retain an experienced lawyer during mediation, he or she will thoroughly evaluate your case and advise you about your rights.
The Representation of an Attorney Can Make it More Likely that You Will Reach an Agreement out of Court
Emotions can run high during a divorce, and couples in the midst of a divorce have been known to become petty or spiteful, often bringing negotiations to a screeching halt. When you retain an attorney, however, he or she can communicate on your behalf, either with your spouse or your spouse’s attorney. If you are having trouble communicating with your spouse in a constructive way, having your attorney step in can make it more likely that you will be able to reach an agreement without having to go to court.
You Should Always Have an Attorney Review a Settlement Agreement Before You Sign It
Finally, it’s important that you have an experienced lawyer review any settlement agreement that you reach through mediation before you sign it. A divorce settlement is a serious legal matter and one that could have implications for decades to come. Having your lawyer review your settlement before you sign it will ensure that it means what you think it means and that you do not experience any unpleasant surprises down the road.