The simple answer to the question of whether or not a mediator can replace a divorce attorney is no. Now for the reasons why: Mediation can be a great option for many couples who want to make progress in the division of their union as amicably as possible. But never forget that a divorce, just like a marriage, is a legally binding contract. And mediation is certainly not a substitute for the expertise of a divorce attorney.
Mediators are not able to give either half of a divorcing couple legal advice, even if the mediator is an attorney. But mediation can be a good thing if your decision to divorce is mutual, if you can disagree with each other in a civil way, if you both have a full understanding of your financial situation, and if your spouse hasn’t lied to you about anything that’s really important.
In fact, some attorneys appreciate mediation as a method of splitting up because it saves them time and helps their clients save money. In some situations, a divorce case can be wrapped up much more quickly with the help of a mediator. But if mediation fails, you will have to start from scratch with a divorce attorney.
Divorce Isn’t Like the Movies
Even couples who don’t get along well can use mediation successfully. For couples who don’t believe that they can negotiate face-to-face, it’s important to understand that a qualified mediator is trained to assist you in a highly charged and extremely situation.
While no one would recommend looking to the movie Wedding Crashers for an idea of what mediation is like – the two main characters played by Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson work as divorce mediators – there are a few elements of the exchange in the opening scene that offer some food for thought if you’re on the brink of a divorce. Mediation, even between the most amicable couples, can get petty and ugly, but discussing the darker side of your marriage is at least restricted to the mediation room rather than being aired in open court and put on the record.
It’s also a win when mediation helps couples reach their own solutions, and having this feeling of control over their affairs, statistics show, breeds greater compliance with parenting time, spousal support, child support, and other decrees when all is said and done.
The Reality of Mediation
When a couple is relatively confident that they, together with an impartial third party, can come to some sort of agreement about dismantling the life they’ve heretofore shared, they may feel a little smug. “We’re two adults. We don’t need a divorce attorney to make this happen.” But have you actually started doing the physical act of separating bits and pieces of your lives? A TV here, a bedroom suite there? Do you have pets? Children? Other pieces of joint property or major assets?
You may have been able to come to agreements during your separation about how financial and parental matters should be handled, but once divorce enters the picture opinions change and so do peoples’ reactions to typical situations. Even if you believe you are capable of having an amicable divorce with your spouse, and that the two of you can maintain order for the sake of everyone’s sanity or for the sake of the kids, you are not legal experts. There are technicalities of the law that can have you staring at an empty bank account or a notice to evict the premises.
A mediator can aid you in navigating the charged atmosphere between the two of you, but a divorce attorney can give you the straight-up advice that removes all emotion from the proceedings entirely. And for some people, that legal barrier is necessary to make the divorce happen fairly and swiftly.
Understanding What Mediation Offers
The fact is this: A mediator cannot give you the legal advice you need to make you feel like your divorce has been settled properly. The mediator is not qualified to advise you on whether or not the divorce agreement you’re signing is fair to you and your children.
Yes, you can draw up a parenting time agreement with the help of a mediator. But you would be well-advised to not sign anything until a divorce attorney reviews the materials. Your Michigan divorce lawyer is the expert who will immediately recognize whether or not your interests are protected in this documentation. A divorce attorney will see the holes in your settlement when it comes to taxes, retirement, or paying for your child’s college tuition.
Couples think they are saving money by opting for a mediator instead of a divorce attorney. And this is a possible reality. But mediators and divorce lawyers can work together to ensure that you ultimately don’t lose money and that your interests are well protected.
Once a divorce is settled, it’s not easy to undo or change what’s been agreed to. While mediation may include consultation with financial planners, accountants, and appraisers, and while the documents that are signed up may be just fine, it’s still important to have a divorce lawyer review your agreement before it’s signed. Contact an experienced Michigan divorce attorney at Femminineo Attorneys in Mt. Clemens, MI, to schedule your no-cost initial interview today.