Instead of smoothing out the details of your divorce in court, you've decided to try a mediation. Mediation allows you the chance to communicate with your soon-to-be ex and work things out with an impartial party – the mediator. The mediator facilitates the communication process, and doesn't hammer out details or provide a final order. That said, you may wonder if you do need a family lawyer along with the mediator's services.
Before you decide whether to hire a lawyer or not, you may want to consider:
1. Do you truly understand the legal parts of your divorce puzzle? If there are a lot of words going around and over your head or you don't fully understand a child custody agreement that your spouse is proposing, a family lawyer can help you to make sense of what's going on. During the mediation process you aren't required to have a lawyer present. This means that you may miss out on some valuable explanations. If this is the case, hiring a family attorney can help you to paint a better picture of what the agreement says. This doesn't mean that the lawyer argues on your behalf or speaks for you. Instead, the professional is there to provide expert explanations and clarify legal wording.
2. Do you know your rights? The American Bar Association recommends at least consulting an attorney when it comes to something as life-changing and complex as a divorce. The lawyer knows the current laws regarding divorce, the division of property and child custody. Having a consultation with an expert before (or at any point during) the mediation is one way to protect your rights. The lawyer can tell you if your, or your ex's, requests are reasonable and fair in relation to the letter of the law.
3. Does your ex have a lawyer? Showing up at the mediation only to find out that your ex has a lawyer helping him may not make you feel calm and comfortable. The point of the mediation is to come together in order to work out the split and a parenting plan. When one party has an attorney providing information, and the other doesn't, the scales are tipped. To keep things on an even level, talk to your ex about the possibility of having attorneys present. Likewise, if you show up with a layer (and your ex doesn't), he may feel threatened or like you aren't being honest.
Mediation allows two people to resolve a conflict, such as divorce or a child custody agreement, in a neutral environment that encourages communication. Even though mediation doesn't require that a family layer is present, you will want to consider if you may indeed need one before the resolution process begins.