Posted 03/14/2017 12:17:28
Category: Divorce Mediation
On occasion I have heard a prospective client say, "Before I mediate, I need to talk with a lawyer to find out what my rights are."
While you are encouraged to seek legal advice at any time before, during, and after mediation, the fact is, you have the right to make any agreement that is acceptable to both you and your spouse. An attorney can represent only one spouse and initially only hears that spouse's side of things. That attorney will tend to respond in a way favorable to that spouse creating, in some cases, false expectations. In mediation, issues that have specific legal guidelines, like child support, will be calculated just as they would be in court, but even child support has flexibility - the statutory calculation is a guideline. It's your life, your future, and mediation allows you to have control.
Most couples haven’t gone to court since before they got married when they picked up their marriage license. The court has not made decisions for you during your marriage. You have no obligation to go to court now simply because you intend to separate and divorce - with one exception, the judge will need to sign the final divorce decree. When a couple has created a Mediated Separation Agreement, the final divorce decree is a necessary legal formality to complete a divorce.
As a professional mediator and former practicing attorney, I will give you and your spouse legal information. I will provide information to both spouses in a neutral manner. For example, in Virginia, retirement funds saved during the marriage from moneys earned during the marriage are marital property. If, in mediation, one spouse is being unrealistic in his or her demands or has expectations that are inconsistent with the law or the other spouse, then I will explore those issues, share my information, and encourage that spouse to seek additional input/advice. In addition, once your agreement is completed and reviewed with me, I will encourage you both to have it reviewed by your respective attorneys. The attorney review is not intended for the attorney to pick apart your agreement and start over again, but is intended to give you a second set of eyes to make sure you have full understanding of your agreement; it is not, however, a requirement.
Professional mediation with an attorney-mediator will serve you well by providing you with legal information, while encouraging you to obtain legal advice, or any other professional advice, as needed, before, during, or after mediation. Professional mediation with an attorney-mediator will help you and your spouse come up with a mutually acceptable agreement that will save you thousands of dollars and keep you out of court.