Divorce is always a stressful process, but it can be less stressful if you know your options.
While many think that they are necessary, a divorce lawyer is not required if you and your spouse can resolve issues through divorce mediation. However, the best choice depends on your unique situation.
What Does a Divorce Lawyer Do?
A divorce lawyer’s job is to achieve the most favorable outcome for the client. In “traditional” divorce where lawyers are hired, each spouse hires their own representation to negotiate the issues surrounding the end of their marriage.
If the two parties cannot agree on an issue, the divorce will move on to litigation. A family law judge will decide the outcome regarding child custody and support, alimony, and division of marital assets and debts.
What is Divorce Mediation?
Divorce mediation is a process where an independent, third-party mediator helps both parties come to a mutual agreement. Mediators can be lawyers, financial or mental health professionals, or other experts.
The mediator assists with negotiation, but ultimately each decision is made by the spouses. Mediation is often a good option for couples who wish to avoid litigation and court.
When Should You Use Divorce Mediation?
1. To keep the peace.
You don’t need to be good friends or agree on everything to successfully mediate your divorce. If you and your spouse want to avoid a fight in court, mediation may be the best option for you. This is especially important when both parties are trying to maintain stability for their children.
2. To save money.
Divorce attorney retainers are significantly more expensive than mediation and tend to have a faster resolution. By using mediation, you and your spouse can save thousands of dollars.
3. To promote the best outcome for your children.
If you and your spouse discuss the issue as parents rather than as litigants, you may be able to make better choices when it comes to time-sharing and child support. Avoiding the emotional pain and stress of court may also help you maintain a civil relationship with your spouse for your kids’ sake.
4. To save time.
Mediated divorces often take significantly less time than divorces handled by attorneys. Since discussions take place in real time rather than through back-and-forth communications with the opposing counsel, you can complete your divorce in months rather than years.
5. To have more control over your settlement.
Mediation allows you and your spouse to discuss and resolve all issues in ways that are customized to your specific needs. The divorce settlement is more likely to be fair to both of you since you’ll each have direct input in the terms and conditions.
When Should You Use a Divorce Lawyer?
1. If your safety or wellbeing is threatened.
Your safety should always be your number one concern. Divorce mediation is not a good option if you fear retribution on the other side, such as in cases of domestic violence. And if there’s a restraining order in effect, it may be impossible to sit in a room with your spouse.
2. If your spouse is incapacitated.
If your spouse is an addict, has a neurological condition that renders them incapable of making sound decisions, or is otherwise mentally incapacitated, they may not be able to participate in mediation.
3. If you have evidence that your spouse is hiding assets.
If you have reason to believe that your spouse is hiding some debts or assets from you, you need a divorce lawyer. The lawyer can file a motion with courts, which will compel your spouse to surrender any documentation that would show if this is the case.
4. If your spouse isn’t willing to try mediation.
Mediation is a purely voluntary process. If one of you isn’t willing to try, you’ll have to find another option, which generally means a divorce lawyer.
Do What’s Best for Your Unique Situation
The question of whether to choose divorce mediation or a divorce lawyer depends entirely on your circumstances. If you want to divorce amicably and save money and time, mediation may be your best option. On the other hand, there are many situations where a divorce lawyer is necessary. It’s ultimately up to you and your spouse.
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