Should I hire a lawyer or a mediator for my divorce? This is one of the most frequently asked questions of people who seek my counsel in planning their divorce strategy. If you are asking this question now, I want you to know that hiring a lawyer does not mean that you can’t or won’t choose mediation. Lawyers and mediators often work together to form a strong divorce team for families. Meaning, you can hire a lawyer for legal advice about your unique situation AND use mediation to arrive at a divorce settlement (parenting plans included).
That said, here are my top 5 reasons to choose mediation (with or without a lawyer) over going to court to settle your divorce. This is not legal advice, it’s my position after a decade of working in the family law field as a divorce coach, Child and Family Investigator (CFI), co-parent coach, and, now, a divorce mediator, and seeing different divorce strategies play out over time.
Divorce mediation is frequently less expensive than employing a lawyer to take the case to divorce court. Couples in divorce mediation simply pay for the mediator’s services, which can be considerably less expensive than a divorce attorney’s retainer for collaborative law, and certainly less expensive than the actual cost of going to court. Moreover, mediation is undoubtedly quicker than conventional litigation, and when the time it takes to create your divorce settlement is shortened, it will reduce your legal costs. I often ask my clients to consider the costs of mediation even if they hire a lawyer for litigation because many courts in the US will require couples to go to mediation before the case heads to court.
Reiterating the point above, divorce mediation can be concluded considerably more quickly than traditional litigation. A mediated divorce can frequently be concluded in a few sessions. Traditional litigation, in comparison, may take months, even years to conclude. Why does this matter to you? When you have closure on your divorce, it is easier to move into your new chapter of life without the burden of divorce looming over your head.
Couples who choose to mediate their divorce also have greater control over the outcome. In mediation, the couple works together to reach a mutually acceptable agreement, with the assistance of a skilled mediator. Couples can discuss any matter that is significant to them, and they can modify the agreement to suit their own requirements and worries. In contrast, a judge makes the final judgment in a typical divorce, which might not be in accordance with the couple’s preferences. Bottom line: you know your family best and this gives you the control to define what your life looks like (with your children and your finances) after divorce.
- Adversarial vs. Collaborative
Conflict in divorce cases can be highly aggressive, with each side battling for its own interests. When children are involved, this can lead to a tense and stressful situation in the family unit that has long-lasting negative consequences. Comparatively, divorce mediation is a collaborative process in which both sides engage to arrive at a resolution. Even if you don’t come to an agreement on every single point in mediation, I have seen the process of engaging in mediation lead to a more respectful relationship between the parties as they create their new lives after divorce.
- Emotional Impact
Divorce is emotionally challenging for both parties, and the process can be even more difficult when litigation is involved. Due to litigation’s combative nature, relationships may suffer irreparable damage. This has an extremely negative consequence on co-parenting relationships. In comparison, mediation can be a more positive experience because it enables couples to resolve their differences in a courteous and constructive way, as much as possible. In an already emotional transition for all parties, mediation provides a way to a peaceful resolution.
When to Hire a Lawyer
Please consider hiring a lawyer for their opinion on your situation when you have children and/or are a high-asset divorce. Lawyers can represent you at mediation so that your interests are considered when you are mediating the parenting plan and divorce agreement. You do not have to have legal counsel before you engage in mediation, but you can have the mediated agreement reviewed by a legal professional before it is submitted to the court. This can guarantee that the agreement is reasonable, equitable, and in accordance with any laws and regulations that may be relevant.
Ultimately, hiring a divorce mediator or divorce attorney is NOT mutually exclusive. Both roles can work together to bring you the best outcome for your divorce. If you’re thinking about divorcing and the strategy that is best for you, book a free consult with Boulder Divorce Mediation. It’s 20 minutes of your time, to get all your divorce mediation questions answered.