Often I have people consult my office that either want to or have agreed to attend mediation (through a court process or otherwise). They tell me that they can “work it all out” or that they “don’t want to argue.” Often people tell me that they have decided to go through mediation rather than having their own attorney.
The first step to making this decision is to understand the mediation process. Mediation is a process by which the parties discuss the matter at hand, whatever that may be, to identify the issues and come to an agreement on how to resolve any conflict. In the matter of divorce, the parties attempt to come to an agreement on such issues as property distribution, child custody & support, etc.
Next, you must understand the mediator’s role. The mediator is not there to give you legal advice. He or she does not represent either party. The mediator does not advise either party as to the implications of his/her decisions. The mediator’s role is to bring the parties to an agreement that works for both. In essence, the mediator brings “A” and “C” to a middle point of “B” with an agreement that is fair and reasonable.
If you want legal advice, you must have an attorney present. Only then will you receive legal advice and understand any future implications of your decisions. You cannot rely on the mediator to do this for you. It isn’t his/her job. You can make a decision to have an attorney present for the mediation, which is the most efficient option, or to consult with an attorney after the mediation. Of course, having your attorney present ensures that you don’t have to go back to negotiations after learning that an agreement you made was not in your best interest. At the least, having an attorney review the agreement post mediation ensures that you haven’t agreed to anything major that could hurt you later.
Don’t make major life-long decisions without knowing the legal implications of them in your future. Consult an attorney and know that you are doing the right thing for you – and for your family.
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