Should I Opt for Mediation?
While mediation works in certain divorces, it is has its limitations.
A common question that we get asked at LaMonaca Law is: “Should I go for mediation instead of getting my own attorney?” While many people have positive experiences with divorce mediation, it is important to know what mediation is and to understand that it has some serious limitations when compared with the traditional divorce process.
A mediator is a trained, neutral third party that can guide you through divorce process and resolve issues. However, a mediator does not represent one party in the process. A mediator is not your attorney. Mediators cannot give legal advice, but they can provide couples information about Pennsylvania’s divorce laws. Also, mediators are there to get you to come to an agreement and have absolutely no obligation to tell you whether something is a fair deal. Therefore, while mediators do seek to help you amicably reach an agreement, they may not help you reach an agreement that is fair to you.
People often shy away from hiring their own attorney and opt for mediation because they do not want to make their divorce more contentious. Often people are worried that hiring an individual attorney will drag the divorce process out and result in more fighting. Of course, there are some attorneys that seek to prolong and overly litigate the divorce process. However, an experienced, contentious family law attorney will actually look to provide you the best value possible and will do a cost-benefit analysis before pursuing a particular course of action. A good attorney will always advise you not only of what the best possible deal is for you and also whether a particular course of action is worth pursuing.
There is also a persistent myth that mediation is cheaper. While this may be true in some cases, it is most definitely not always the case. Many of the elements of a divorce can be negotiated outside of court. A custody agreement, for instance, can be entered via stipulation without ever going to a custody hearing. Similarly, a Property Settlement Agreement for equitable distribution can be arrived at without going to court. However, the value in having your own lawyer is in the review and the negotiation of these elements of your divorce. You can always work to keep your divorce costs low by working with your soon to be ex-spouse and remaining as amicable as possible. When you decide to undergo the divorce process with the help of a divorce attorney, you and your spouse can still settle all of the issues and avoid court appearances; however, you will now be doing so with an attorney who can guide you and help you reach a good resolution. Also, realize that if you go through the mediation process and do not come to an agreement, you will have to go to an individual attorney. This results in an almost doubling of your costs!
Finally, it is important to note that there are some situations in which mediation may not be advisable. While mediation does work in a lot of cases, there are certain situations in which mediation may not be a best way to handle your divorce. If you believe your spouse may be hiding assets, mediation will probably not lead to a fair settlement agreement. Rather, you will need an attorney that is able and willing to engage in financial discovery. Secondly, mediation is not a good idea if the relationship was abusive, controlling or involved a serious imbalance of power. Because mediation relies on the parties coming to an agreement, a mediator will not necessarily tell a party that the agreement is unfair. Therefore, mediation tends to disfavor the weaker party in theses scenarios.
In deciding the best way forward, it is always best to meet with an experienced divorce attorney to discuss your situation. The attorneys at LaMonaca Law have extensive family law experience and are more than willing to help. Click or call 610-892-3877