“If we go to you, do we have to go to a lawyer?”
“Can we just come see you and not use lawyers at all?”
The definitive answer is – Yes, most of the time you will not need a lawyer. But it’s your choice.
The service I provide is “full service” Mediation. I work daily with professionals such as title companies, accountants, Realtors, therapists, so if you need it, their services are available to you. With my help, you mediate the terms of your divorce agreement, and then attorneys I work with will draft the Divorce Agreement. I will email the agreement to you and conduct a review session where we go over the Divorce Agreement and you sign the documents. I will notarize them and you are then legally separated. This whole process beginning to end is about six weeks. If you choose to proceed to divorce, I will refer you to someone who will file the divorce action for you at a discounted rate.
There is no statutory requirement that before signing a Divorce or Settlement agreement you must have an attorney review it. In some cases, there is really nothing to review; you have very few assets, very little debt, no children, and no businesses so there really wouldn’t be much for an attorney to look over.
In other cases, things are a little more complicated because there are more assets to be taken into consideration or there are businesses and multiple properties that require business valuations. For these I would suggest attorney review and will provide you with a list of “mediation friendly” attorneys I have worked with. Not expensive. Well worth it. But again, it’s your choice.
And then there are cases we call “high asset couples.” Complicated portfolios, sometimes international holdings valued in other currencies. Often one spouse has been handling all the finances individually and the other spouse really doesn’t know much about them. For these I have created kind of a hybrid process whereby I might suggest that we bring in lawyers and CPAs at the beginning of the mediation process to make sure everybody is clear on what is being agreed to. As the mediator, I can control the flow of the conversation and make sure that the attorneys aren’t posturing and that the negotiations do not take longer than they need to. In these situations, the attorneys’ roles are not to negotiate for their clients, but to be advisors. Sometimes, I will meet with a couple beforehand and work out the framework of the negotiations before bringing everybody else in. This process is only appropriate for high asset couples.
For a majority of the couples I see, they are clear that they do not want lawyers negotiating for them. I’ve had couples that went to attorneys before they came to mediation just to get an idea of where their settlement should be. And I’ve had couples go to attorneys after the Settlement Agreement is written and the terms have been negotiated so that they are satisfied that what they negotiated is a reasonable deal.
Mediators are not anti-lawyer, but we prefer the husband and wife talk to each other and do their own negotiating not the attorneys doing it for them. This direct communication between the husband and wife fosters cooperation and sets the pattern for how they will communicate with each other going forward. My experience has shown that parenting issues are addressed in a more cooperative way if the couple feels they have gotten a fair economic settlement, so the whole family benefits.
So, do lawyers have a role in your Mediation? Now you have the information to make your own decision.
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