Mediation can reduce your need for legal fees. However, mediation does not necessarily eliminate the need for lawyers.
A mediator is a neutral person who can help you and your spouse reach agreements. However, a mediator cannot give you legal advice and cannot draft your final documents. Therefore, mediation often works best when it is combined with “mediation-friendly legal advice.”
Having an attorney help you during the mediation process can give you the best of both worlds. Ideally, it allows you to combine the benefits of working with a neutral person with the comfort of making sure your crucial needs are being addressed. Consequently, if you are seeking to achieve a better outcome through mediation, the key is to determine how much legal advice you need and the type of legal advice that will work best with mediation.
The amount of legal help that you need during mediation can vary significantly depending on your situation. Some people simply have one attorney draft the final document at the end of the mediation and have one other attorney simply review the final documents on behalf of the other spouse. Other couples choose to have the attorneys present during all of the mediation sessions to make sure that they are properly advised at each juncture. Still others choose to check in with their attorneys in between sessions to make sure things are progressing in a satisfactory manner.
There is no right or wrong way to do it; each case is different and each client has different needs for protection. It is important to select an attorney and a mediator who can be flexible enough to adapt their process to the needs of your particular family. A mediation-friendly attorney can help you determine how much legal assistance is needed in your case.
In order to get the best results from your mediation settlement, it is important that you and
your spouse find attorneys that are skilled in working with clients in mediation. Attorneys who focus a significant portion of their practice on finding out-of-court solutions will be likely to give you the protection you need without disrupting the mediation process. Collaborative Attorneys, for example, are attorneys who agree to work for settlement purposes. (For a list of Collaborative Attorneys in Minnesota, go to www.collaborativelaw.org.)