By: Alan Freed
For over 30 years I have been assisting couples through their divorces by acting as a mediator. Consequently, many couples considering divorce contact me for mediation and, when I ask them why they selected mediation, they often say tell me that they hope to avoid the use of lawyers.
So, let me start by setting one thing straight: mediation is not a substitute for lawyers. What I’m about to say may be a bit confusing, but it’s important to understand. I am a lawyer and I am also a mediator. When I act as a mediator, my job is to assist a couple in conducting their divorce negotiations. I am responsible for guiding them and providing them with information, but I can’t provide them with legal advice; that is the job of their lawyers. The only way I can remain impartial is to refrain from advising them about what decisions they should make. If I were to advise them, I would now be changing my role from that of impartial third party to advocate, and I can’t serve the couple in two capacities.
Mediation keeps the cost of divorce down because the husband and wife do the “heavy lifting” of gathering information and negotiating the settlement terms. This allows lawyers to act in the capacity of counselors and advisors, reducing the amount of time they will spend and reducing your legal bills.
When people going through divorce, or any other legal process, tell me that they intend to proceed without lawyers, I always suggest they reconsider that decision. Think of it this way: Would you perform surgery on yourself or on a loved one because you had watched many episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” and frequented medical websites? Or perhaps you build houses for a living. How comfortable would you be living in a structure built by someone who had never put hammer to nail before, or who drew the plans on a bar napkin?
Divorce is a complicated business. Your family will go through profound, long-lasting, and, in many cases, permanent changes. Family law attorneys have experience dealing with those changes and they know how things can go wrong if great care is not put into the divorce settlement. You may be able to come to agreement with your spouse, but you don’t have experience in crafting documents that will make certain your agreements are clearly stated and enforceable.
We recognize that hiring lawyers requires a significant investment of time and money, both of which may be in short supply when you are going through a divorce. If the divorce is not handled by professionals, however, you may find yourself having to hire lawyers after the divorce is entered, either to enforce a poorly written or vague agreement or to try to repair the problems that were not properly addressed in the first place.
The family law attorneys at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal can help you decide what divorce process will work best for you and your family, in a cost-effective manner appropriate to your unique situation.