Should I Choose a Divorce Lawyer to Be My Mediator?
Divorcing couples choose mediation for a number of reasons: to save money, avoid the risks inherent in a trial, and free themselves from the constraints of the court calendar. Many also choose mediation because it’s a more cooperative process than litigation or traditional negotiation. Finally, some folks choose mediation because they don’t like dealing with lawyers.
Those in the latter group bring up an interesting question: is it generally better to choose a divorce mediator who is a lawyer? The answer: most definitely! There are many advantages to choosing an attorney mediator:
- Knowledge of the law — You’re working to achieve a settlement that has the force of law once a judge approves it. A mediator who’s not an attorney can get you to agree on certain points but may have an insufficient understanding of the legal implications, such as tax consequences. If a question arises whether an asset is separate or marital property, a non-attorney may not fully understand the legal basis for answering that question.
- Knowledge of how a court is likely to rule — An attorney who is in court on a regular basis has a pretty good idea of how judges are likely to decide issues. If the process comes to a halt because one of the parties won’t budge on an issue, an attorney mediator can explain from experience what the current trend has been in court decisions.
- Training in attention to detail — Lawyers are trained early on that “the devil is in the details.” So an attorney mediator is more likely to drill down on an issue to discover where potential conflict lies. We bring those sticking points to the surface for discussion and resolution. Ultimately, your settlement can contain contingencies so when problems arise, you have a plan in place to deal with them.
- Experience with modifying parenting plans — There is no better teacher than experience, especially the experience of having to fix something that doesn’t work. Family law attorneys who argue motions to modify parenting plans, child custody orders, and child support quickly learn what does and doesn’t work over time. Every parenting plan has a shelf life, because your growing children develop different needs and interests. But by litigating conflicts in parenting plans, attorneys learn where the pinch points are and can use that knowledge to help write better plans.
Before you give up all these advantages, you might consider what turns you off about working with a lawyer. Is it the aggressive attitude? The fierce questioning? The argumentative tone? The drive to win? These qualities serve an attorney well as an advocate in an adversarial setting, such as traditional negotiations or a trial. But when attorneys switch gears to act as mediators, they know they have to conduct themselves as a neutral third party, guiding discussions between the parties. There is no favoring one side over the other — simply a sharing of insights to help the parties reach a compromise.
Good attorney mediators are just as skilled at creating a relaxed atmosphere for discussions as they are at cross-examining a hostile witness.
Solutions Divorce Mediation, Inc. makes it possible to get all the advantages of having a lawyer mediate your divorce without the stress of litigation. If you are planning to file for divorce, call us at 1.631.683.8172 or contact our Long Island office online.