What is the role of a lawyer during the divorce mediation process?
As a matrimonial attorney, clients consult me while pursuing mediation typically in the context of wanting to make informed decisions. Particularly in a complex case, a client may find the amount of information offered by the mediator daunting, or may wish to better understand the refinements of a particular issue. Accordingly, I am retained as a kind of sounding board. The client attends the mediation session and then discusses with me what he or she has learned, how it impacts his or her personal case, and what other issues may flow from that particular topic. Having the client feel more comfortable and informed can enhance the future mediation sessions.
At what point in time do you intervene in the process?
The client should advise the mediator and spouse that he or she is also working with a lawyer. Most divorce mediators recommend to their clients that they get advice during the mediation process if needed, and certainly before signing any documents. The relationship should be transparent. Although it may at times seem counterintuitive to a divorcing couple, the mediation process works best where trust is displayed by all concerned. Having an attorney behind the scenes smacks of gamesmanship and can backfire.
Do you help both parties or just one?
If a lawyer is desired, the lawyer should only advise one of the participants as the mediator is the one in a sense representing both parties. With respect to when the attorney should enter the process, I would think at the outset or when the client encounters a difficult issue that he or she wants more information/guidance on.
Timothy J. Horgan, Esq.
The Law Offices of Timothy J. Horgan
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