Mediation companies often claim to be a low cost alternative to seeking legal representation in a divorce. The mediation process typically starts by having you and your spouse write down your individual goals regarding property division, child custody or support, and spousal maintenance. You and your spouse will likely be asked to provide an accounting of your assets and liabilities. Taking no sides, a professional mediator will work with both you and your spouse to divide assets, allocate support and resolve any disputes regarding parenting time and draft a written agreement for you and your spouse to sign. If this all sounds too easy, you may be onto something. Mediation is not always the right fit for every situation, so it is important to consider the stumbling blocks individuals and couples encounter:
- If you suspect that your spouse may not be on the level regarding their finances, remember that mediation does not require discovery. During the litigation process, on the other hand, discovery reveals the assets of both parties so that a fair settlement is possible.
- Sometimes one spouse is adamant about seeing a mediator instead of each party securing their own legal representation. Sometimes this can be disadvantageous when considering the pattern of interaction you and your spouse had as a couple. If one spouse has typically gotten their way in the marriage because the other loathes confrontation, for example, this may carry into the mediation process leading to a lopsided settlement as one spouse rallies and the other defers. If you are not able to advocate for yourself in the face of your spouse’s demands, it is advisable to hire an attorney to work on your behalf.
- If at any point in the mediation process you don’t like the way things are going, you may want to consult with an attorney. Remember that although some mediators are lawyers, many are not. Mistakes or oversights are certainly possible given the lack of expertise and experience. If you have to consult an attorney more than once, you may be better off stopping the mediation process and hiring an attorney to represent you instead. If, however, the mediation process goes smoothly, it is always advisable to have an attorney look over your agreement before signing to ensure the mediator did not overlook any issues or that you have waived any of your rights inadvertently.
- Mediation is not speedy and can slow to a screeching halt if one or both spouses do not or cannot commit to the mediation schedule. During one session you may only iron out a co-parenting agreement, leaving more work for another day that may or may not line up in your busy schedules any time soon. Of course, if there are any unanticipated disagreements, the process can drag out indefinitely.
In most cases, if you and your spouse are poised to work together in an uncontested divorce, hiring your own attorney to work on your behalf is wise. If you and your spouse are on the same page, the process will likely be cost effective and expedient without the risk of mistakes being made. Divorce lawyers not only have thorough knowledge of the law, but also experience working with clients and other counsel in and out of court so they are often a better value overall. If you and your spouse are considering divorce, we welcome you to contact the law offices of Ronald L Bell & Associates P.C. to help you determine what approach is right for you. Call today to discuss your case at 847-495-6000.