By Colleen Honquest
While you don’t need to have a divorce lawyer to do divorce mediation, it can be a good idea to speak to one to know exactly what your legal rights are. Mediation is a private process in which the couple works with a neutral third party to discuss their issues and reach a mutually beneficial agreement or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outside of the court system. The couple is able to schedule mediation sessions based on their availability. This last point is priceless for those who are working and juggling children while going through divorce.
What Can an Attorney Do For Me in Mediation?
If you underestimate the strength of your legal position, you may give away the farm; on the other hand, if you drive too hard a bargain, you may cause the other party to walk away from negotiations. Before starting mediation, it’s helpful to be familiar with your state’s laws on marital property and how child support is calculated. An attorney can educate you on these matters:
- Explain the rules and procedures of mediation
- Help select a mediator (if the mediator isn’t chosen by the court)
- Prepare you for mediation
- Help you decide potential settlements
- Review a proposed settlement for missing details or other potential issues
- Prepare formal divorce paperwork if you reach a mediated settlement
“I have seen the first-hand destruction that litigation can leave on the participants. There is a very large economic and emotional toll in a litigated divorce. In the end, the attorneys and their law firms are the ones who make out the most at the expense of the clients.” -Jenet Pequeño, Family Lawyer
Jenet Pequeño is a family lawyer in Arlington Heights, Illinois, who has litigated since 2004 and who is also a trained divorce mediator. He says, “Having litigated over approximately 700 divorces, I have seen the first-hand destruction that litigation can leave on the participants. There is a very large economic and emotional toll in a litigated divorce. In the end, the attorneys and their law firms are the ones who make out the most at the expense of the clients.”
The Financial and Emotional Benefits of Divorce Mediation
A divorce trial can be in the tens of thousands of dollars from start to finish. As Pequeño points out, “In litigated divorces, a judge must sometimes force a decision upon two uncooperative parties and the chances that the couple will end up back in court is quite good. In a mediated resolution, the statistics show that both people are much less likely to go back to court, which also leads to further savings.” Mediation can be a much less expensive option even for the family with high conflict if people can focus on tasks and attempt to minimize negative back and forth exchanges. In the case of a high conflict couple, an attorney can also help each party understand their rights so that neither person experiences an imbalance of power in divorce mediation.
At the conclusion of a successful mediation, parties come to consensus and reach agreement on their divorce settlement. Then a memorandum of understanding (MOU) is drafted. This MOU contains the specific terms of the agreement and sometimes rationale behind the decisions, too. As mentioned earlier, the MOU should then be reviewed by a mediation-friendly attorney who can take the terms and incorporate them into the final court documents in the form that the court requires. Pequeño explains, “I believe mediation allows me to guide willing individuals away from the high litigation costs, endless billing cycles, and emotional roller coaster that a contested divorce can provide. I simply feel there is a better way to divorce.”
I am a trained divorce mediator and certified divorce coach. I went through a highly litigated divorce in Family Court and lived through the trauma and expense that litigation brings. The financial and emotional cost of going to Court was not something that I could have foreseen. I felt completely at the mercy of my lawyer and was often in the dark about how the process worked. The stress was unbearable. From what I learned firsthand, family court is not the place for a high-conflict divorce and mediation could have been much less expensive and less time consuming if run by attorneys and mediators trained in high conflict divorce.
Colleen Honquest, Divorce Mediator and Certified Divorce Coach
Free 30 Minute Consult: firstname.lastname@example.org ; DivorceMD, LLC
Check out the DivorceMD Podcast with guest Jenet Pequeño, Family Lawyer on any of your favorite podcast platforms!