It’s a common divorce fear: you will end up in court, and your lawyer will argue endlessly while the meter on legal fees will spin out of control. With each passing second, you’ll be losing money and seemingly, losing control of your life. Even now, imagining this scenario may activate your stress hormones.
Mediation offers a workaround that fear by allowing you to settle the terms of your divorce without the risk of court, thus saving you—potentially—tremendous amounts of money. This may sound great to you: divorce without lawyers? Sign you up!
However, I’m here to tell you that even in mediation you still need a lawyer. The difference is that you’re going to use that lawyer in a more focused way—one that is catered to the specific advice and guidance you need in the moment you prepare and go through the mediation process.
Why You Need a Mediation Attorney
Divorce mediation may be the most important negotiation process you ever engage in. The results will affect your life for years to come.
A mediation attorney protects your rights and can help you achieve your goals through the mediation process in divorce. Even if your mediator is an attorney, the mediator is committed to remaining neutral. The mediator cannot give you specific legal advice. However, if you consult with your own, private mediation attorney, you gain an advocate who remains focused on your specific, best interests.
Getting Divorced? If the divorce is happening, one way or another, you will want to read more about your choices and what to be prepared for.
Consulting with a mediation attorney before, during, and after mediation sessions, if necessary, makes you better prepared and more confident as you approach the different issues in your divorce. Plus, a mediation attorney can make sure you understand the impact your choices will have so you can realistically evaluate options before you agree to terms. This is critical work and support for you, especially if you are a woman.
Minimizing Negotiations in a Beneficial Way
If both you and your soon-to-be Ex each work with your own individual mediation attorneys, you may save money and avoid wasting time as a couple. Far too often, couples spend months negotiating agreements without legal advice, and then when one of them finally consults an attorney privately, they start to question the terms of those agreements. This can lead to a whole new round of negotiations. If, instead, each of you has the advice of a “mediation friendly” attorney from the start, the entire flow of the mediation process is much more productive and efficient.
In fact, research reported by the American Psychological Association shows that divorcing couples who participate in mediation are far more satisfied with the process and the outcome than couples who litigate their divorce.
A Mediation Attorney Can Protect Your Priorities as a Woman
You can’t get the things you want most until you’re certain what those things are.
Clarifying your goals can be a challenging process and not one that is necessarily intuitive. A mediation attorney will help you define and prioritize your objectives. S/he will help you consider things you may not have thought of. Then, together, you can develop a plan to reach your most critical goals.
For example, if keeping your home is important to you, your mediation consulting attorney might help you brainstorm ideas for how to give your soon-to-be Ex something that is important to him or her so that you each feel you are reaching an equitable agreement. Or, if you are trying to work out a parenting plan and there is disagreement about what schedule is in the best interests of the children, your mediation attorney will help you think through different schedules. She or he will also help you effectively advocate for yourself regarding what you think will be best for your children.
Mediation Leads to a Legally Binding Agreement
Yes, the mediation process is a more informal process than litigation. But make no mistake—when you agree to terms to resolve your divorce through mediation, you sign an agreement that is as legally binding as a judge’s ruling in court. You need to take the process very seriously. If you do not understand your legal rights, you could unintentionally forfeit those rights or agree to terms that are adverse to your own best interests.
You may choose to give up rights in exchange for something else of value. However, you cannot make an informed choice until you understand what is at stake.
An experienced mediation attorney can help you understand the ramifications of each option you may be considering. It is essential that you review proposals in detail with your mediation lawyer before signing anything so that you fully understand your rights and obligations and their long-term implications and impact. Guidance from a mediation attorney can help you feel confident that you will emerge from the divorce in a strong position and ready to move forward with your life.
A Mediation Attorney Will Always Have Your Back
For many people, divorce through the mediation process is not as scary as a divorce handled through lawyers. But it can still induce anxiety. While you want to be respectful of your soon-to-be-Ex during the process, you need to take steps to preserve your own well-being, both emotionally and financially.
It is wise therefore to approach the mediation process thoughtfully. Working with a knowledgeable mediation attorney early on can help you get the most from the process and make sure you are educated upfront before you start negotiating in the mediation room. Ideally, your mediation attorney will help you advocate on your own behalf while still working toward a resolution that allows you and your soon-to-be Ex to come away satisfied. A “mediation friendly” attorney will respect the non-adversarial nature of the mediation process while still helping you achieve positive outcomes that meet your unique needs.
If you and your spouse decide on mediation as the way you will divorce, factor in your healthy and strategic move to consult privately with a mediation attorney, and know that many divorce attorneys can serve this role for you these days. They may call themselves mediation attorneys or mediation lawyers or mediation consulting attorneys, but their role is to support you—to make sure your mediated agreement with your spouse respects you and your needs for the long term.
Andrea Vacca, Esq. is the founder of Vacca Family Law Group, which works exclusively with couples who want to resolve their divorce and other family law-related issues through mediation, collaborative divorce, and negotiated agreements outside of the court system. She is the Immediate Past President of the New York Association of Collaborative Professionals and a member of various organizations focused on collaborative divorce and mediation. Whether working with clients ending a relationship or those who are trying to prevent problems in a current relationship, she strives to help her clients achieve their goals with minimal conflict. She can be reached through her website https://www.vaccalaw.com/contact-us/
Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and often complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are coping with divorce or are already navigating your life afterward, choose to acknowledge your vulnerability and learn from others. Choose not to go it alone.