When spouses separate they are often reluctant to retain lawyers to assist them to resolve their issues. They will attempt to compromise and reach a settlement but when this fails they often end up representing themselves in court. Going to court without a lawyer can be a daunting experience. A possible alternative is for both spouses to hire a single lawyer to act as a mediator.
I have helped numerous unrepresented couples as a mediator over the past 15 years. The benefit of this type of mediation is that I know the law and I can guide them through the process. Both spouses hire lawyers to give them independent legal advice as needed and their lawyers will review any final separation agreement before they sign it.
The benefits of this process are as follows:
• Legal fees are kept to a minimum
• Issues are contained and are usually resolved more quickly
• Spouses are protected by the limited and specific use of their separate lawyers
• Spouses are able to craft their own agreements and find solutions which seem fair to them
In complicated situations where spouses need lawyers to represent them from the beginning mediation is still a useful way to resolve issues and spouses can attend the mediation with their lawyers.
The success rate for mediation in my experience has been very high and is over 90%. It is an extremely useful process and it has transformed the practice of family law by reducing the number of cases which end up in court.
Deborah A. Todd