There are several ways that a person other than a client can be involved in a family law dispute.

One way is when a friend or a family member accompanies the client to appointments at my office. This can be very useful especially if the client is going through a difficult separation and they need help to make rational decisions or they simply need moral support.

Another way arises when we attend mediations. If my client wants to bring a friend or family member to the mediation that person can only be in the room with the opposing lawyer and their former spouse if their former spouse agrees and often they do not agree. In this situation I usually recommend that my client’s friend or family member attend the mediation but that they wait in a separate room and only participate when we are not all meeting together as a group in the mediation. Typically in mediation we begin in the same room for approximately one to two hours but then move to separate rooms for the rest of the day to negotiate a settlement.

A third situation is where a client wishes to consult a friend or family member before finalizing an agreement. This is often done by phoning the friend from the mediation to explain the proposed settlement. This usually creates a very difficult situation because it’s extremely hard to explain the dynamics of the negotiations to someone who has not been present. The proposed settlement may not seem appropriate unless a person has been at the mediation and is aware of the other party’s point of view. This can cause the client to be torn between accepting a settlement that they know is the best outcome they can achieve in the mediation and pleasing the friend or family member who is giving advice without being fully informed. Because of this mediators often have a rule that they try to adhere to that all decision makers should be present and in the room. Unfortunately this is not always possible.

Deborah A. Todd