Choosing a Divorce Mediator? Pros and Cons of a Mediation Lawyer vs a Retired Judge

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Mediation has many advantages over litigation in resolving divorce disputes. These include more flexibility, lower cost and a faster process, among other benefits. While it isn’t the right solution in every divorce, it is worth considering to avoid the delays and hostility that often occur when parties have to go to court. If you are interested in mediation, one of the decisions that you and your spouse will have to make is choosing a divorce mediator. Some lawyers are trained in mediation and will act as mediators. However, depending on your circumstances, you may also want to look at hiring a retired family law or divorce court judge as a mediator. Each has its pros and cons as mediators.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary out-of-court process whereby a neutral third-party mediator helps the parties negotiate a settlement of their disputes. The mediator doesn’t take sides, issue rulings or force the parties to settle. The parties can stop the process at any time if they feel it isn’t productive.

What Is the Mediator’s Role?

Mediators are trained to facilitate discussion and assist the parties in finding common ground. He or she does not decide who wins or give legal advice to the parties. Accordingly, the parties will still need their own attorneys to advise them of their legal rights during mediation and to review or draft the final settlement agreement.

Who Makes the Best Mediator?

An attorney trained in mediation can be an excellent choice. He or she will have gone through a mediation program to learn how to ask questions, uncover the main points of contention and the obstacles to agreement, and encourage the parties to cooperate and communicate. However, it is critical to get a mediation lawyer with courtroom experience in divorce actions. While a mediator without litigation experience may still be effective, it is beneficial to have someone who understands what happens in court when a judge is presented with a dispute as this will, often times, help persuade parties to reach an agreement. To be sure, the mediator who has litigation experience can provide real-world experience to help set expectations for the parties if their matter goes to litigation.

A retired family law judge is also an excellent choice to act as a mediator. The advantage of a retired judge is that the person has experience dealing with parties in and deciding high-conflict situations and, thus, is in the best position to encourage parties to settle and explain what happens if they don’t settle. As a result, the parties get the benefit of a mediator who can opine on how a judge may view the parties’ disputes and what actions a judge may take to resolve the matter. 

How Do You Choose a Mediator?

The best thing to do is to interview several potential mediators to find the right fit. An interview will reveal the mediator’s background, approach and personality in addition to helping you determine whether you feel comfortable working with this individual to help you resolve your divorce.

If you are considering divorce, contact us to discuss whether mediation is the right option for you.

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