Hiring an Attorney.....Or Not Hiring One
While it is ideal to have an attorney represent you, it is not mandatory. Divorce mediation is a voluntary process, where parties to a lawsuit come together to resolve their disputes. Some people choose to do this without having their attorney present. This is usually done in an effort to save money, and can be appropriate when retaining counsel is truly not feasible. Any agreement you may make could be enforceable, particularly if it is signed and in writing. With a lawyer of your own, you have access to legal advice and someone who can advocate for your position. If you are considering participating in divorce mediation without an attorney present, you should consider consulting with a divorce attorney and/or asking a divorce attorney to review any mediated divorce settlement agreement prior to signing it. Some divorce attorneys may be willing to consult with you prior to divorce mediation and then be available to answer questions while you are at the divorce mediation.
Before the Mediation Session-Preparing Your Case
Many lawyers prepare for mediation as though preparing for trial and advise their clients to do the same. It's a little bit like preparing to run a marathon by practicing archery. Mediation is a completely different from the trial process, and preparing as if for trial makes no sense. Whether preparing for mediation or trial, obviously there are large areas of overlap. The file must be well organized and both the attorney and the client should be well familiar with the legal and factual issues. But when preparing for trial, the focus is on presenting the arguments and the evidence to persuade the judge to decide that your side is right and the other side is wrong. The focus of mediation is for the parties to reach an agreement.
Before the Mediation Session-Preparing Yourself
Prior to participating in mediation, you need to give a lot of thought to your settlement goals. You need to accept that you will probably not get all that you ask for, and that there will be a give and take. What are you willing to give in order to get the things that truly matter the most? You need to bring all information that will be needed to decide issues at mediation. Bring your children's school calendars, your credit card and bank statements and budget. Bring your work and personal calendars. As a mediator, I am often surprised at the amount of time that must be spent while participants make phone calls or hit the internet to find out information they could have brought with them. You will save time and money by being prepared for mediation. The day of mediation, dress comfortably. Bring a few nutritious snacks like almonds or yogurt. Avoiding hunger, fatigue and discomfort will ensure that you can focus on the process and achieve a resolution.