divorce mediation

Divorce Mediation - What You Can, and Should Expect

If you are going through divorce mediation, you need a mediation lawyer.

What is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is an out-of-court dispute resolution tool that helps couples that want to amicably settle their issues with minimal involvement from the legal system. A good mediator will:

  • guide the spouses during their negotiations
  • facilitate meaningful dialogue
  • steer the parties away from potential litigation hazards

Do your homework

Many divorce lawyers encourage their clients to engage in divorce mediation. It helps narrow issues while getting an independent viewpoint in areas with disagreement. So, a divorcing spouse should look for an experienced mediator. You should also check the mediator's references before agreeing to use a particular mediator.

A Mediation Lawyer Looks for Common Ground

The mediator's job is not to look out for each spouse's interests. Instead, the mediator's job is to act as a neutral party to facilitate the spouses in reaching their agreement- even if it is unfair or inequitable in the eyes of their divorce lawyer.

Mediators train to be neutral. Therefore, they usually will not alert or advise if an agreement may be unfair to either party.

Hire a Divorce Lawyer, Even if You Don't Feel It's Necessary

A lack of knowledge about your spouse's financial assets, ignorance of the law, and poor negotiating skills can easily cost you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet, in all likelihood, you'll get less than if you retain a divorce lawyer. So you should have a divorce lawyer to guide you in the mediation process. In addition, it's critical to avoid accepting an inequitable marital settlement agreement or finding yourself unable to enforce the terms of your agreement.

The Role of a Mediation Lawyer and the Benefits of Attorney-Guided Mediation

Let's assume that the divorcing spouses have gone through non-attorney-guided mediation and have reached a formal memorandum of understanding. Now what? How do the spouses protect that agreement? What if one spouse realizes the terms of the agreement look good on paper but are not practical in their application?

Under these circumstances, a spouse can find themselves in a situation they didn't want to be in. The spouse needs to hire a divorce lawyer to help retrace and possibly redo all the steps they just took!

The Mediation Lawyer is Trained in Filing and Writing the Mediation

In some (but not all) cases, settlement agreements reached by non-attorney-guided divorce mediations are poorly drafted with vague terms. Consequently, they're difficult to enforce. When getting an agreement at mediation, the spouses must file it with the court to enforce the document via Court order. Sometimes, mediators will file the deal as a "Divorce" matter.

However, the divorce agreement may address additional issues. As a result, you should file those agreements separately, apart from a "divorce" action. For example, suppose an agreement reached through mediation speaks to various issues but is incorrectly docketed or poorly drafted. In that case, there is often little recourse to re-open an executed marital settlement agreement to address the individual terms.

Having a divorce lawyer review or draft the document allows the spouses to understand the agreed-upon terms clearly. It also ensures that the court receives a well-written, concise set of directions. Those directions enable the court to protect and enforce the rights and obligations outlined in the agreement. So it's wise to spend a little money for a mediation lawyer to review any divorce mediation agreement before filing the mediation agreement with the court.

Protecting Your Divorce Agreement

Marital property settlement agreements are contracts. Generally, the court's modification of marital property settlement agreements will only happen if there has been a fraud, duress, coercion, or a mutual mistake in drafting the order or agreement.

Accordingly, courts rarely modify agreements regarding spousal support, alimony pendente lite, and alimony, absent a written agreement by the former spouses to alter the documents. This is different from child support or child custody arrangements. Those arrangements remain under the court's purview. As a result, the court can alter the agreement at nearly any time due to changed circumstances.

Re-opening or seeking to modify a marital property settlement agreement is legally complex and may be rather expensive. In the end, attorney-guided mediation may allow the parties to have their cake and eat it too.

Divorce mediation without attorney involvement can be an effective and less expensive means to foster agreement between divorcing spouses. But a mediation lawyer can shepherd you through the process to ensure a fair and equitable result and avoid unnecessary expense and heartache.

If you have any questions about divorce mediation, please get in touch with our family law offices near you in Doylestown and Norristown and speak with a divorce lawyer. Call 610-275-0700 or email info@highswartz.com.

The information above is general: we recommend you consult a family law attorney regarding your circumstances. The content of this information is not meant to be considered legal advice or a substitute for legal representation.

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