Before you start the mediation process, your own independent lawyer can help you chose the right mediator for your case. She can tell you the relevant documents to bring to mediation and what documentation you should request from your spouse. Your lawyer can help you set goals for your mediation and advise you of your settlement options
If you wish, your lawyer can attend mediation with you; giving you “real time” support. Your lawyer can answer your questions that come up during mediation; thus helping you to make an informed decision. Having your lawyer present during mediation can also help you strategize settlement negotiations.
Alternatively, your lawyer does not attend mediation but can be in the “sidelines” to answer your questions in between mediation sessions. Because mediators are prohibited from giving legal advice, having your own lawyer is beneficial as she can advise you on the law and how it may apply to your particular case. You lawyer can also help you weigh your options and have candid discussions such as whether you could do better at trial.
If you complete mediation without your own lawyer, you should consider retaining independent counsel to review your mediation agreement. Your lawyer can advise you on what the agreement actually says compared to what you think it says. Often, mediated agreements overlook important details. Your lawyer can identify these missing details and help you fill in the gaps. Your lawyer can also advise you of future ramifications of certain provisions which may not have been apparent during mediation.
Once you have a signed separation agreement, your lawyer can prepare the necessary court filings to finalize your divorce. They can also prepare any remaining legal documents that may be needed to split assets. (Often retirement accounts need to be divided pursuant to an additional court order such as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) or Domestic Relations Order (DRO)). Finally, a well-season family law attorney can give you additional advice on your new obligations or other important post-divorce changes or “housekeeping” that you may need to implement – whether it be important estate planning or changes to other legal documents. Before, during or after mediation – it is important to obtain your own independent legal advice from an attorney that specializes in the area of family and matrimonial law. It is likely that your divorce agreement will dictate several aspects of your life for many years to come. Investing in good counsel now will save you time, money and aggravation in the future.