Meditation vs. divorce, part 2

In this second installment, we specifically explore mediation. As an attorney who is trained in collaborative divorce, I have experience with both that approach and mediation. Both options can help reduce costs and offer a more private experience than litigation, where records might be publicly accessible. However, it is important to understand the differences between these two divorce approaches.

First, a mediator may not necessarily be a lawyer, nor does the mediator issue any rulings. Rather, a mediator functions more as a facilitator, helping both parties to reach a mutual agreement. That agreement can then be presented to a court for a final ruling.

Yet what a mediator helps to negotiate may not be in an individual’s best interest. Said another way, there is no safeguard in the event that a mediator is biased or inexperienced. A mediator may also feel pressure for the couples to reach an agreement, even if it is unfair to one party. For these reasons, I recommend that couples be represented during the mediation process, and that an attorney reviews any mediation agreement. Indeed, if a mediation agreement is poorly drafted, it might be vulnerable to a legal challenge, leave issues unresolved, or be rejected by the divorce court.

The mediation process is not binding or final, which means that either party can terminate it at any time. A lawyer who is present during the mediation discussions can help ensure that all assets are uncovered, that all matters of property division and spousal or child support are addressed, and that the mediation agreement is well drafted.

Next week, we’ll conclude this series with a discussion of collaborative divorce.

Source: Forbes, "The Four Divorce Alternatives," Jeff Landers, April 24, 2012