One of the most important decisions you will make after deciding to separate from your spouse is choosing how to navigate the divorce process. Some will decide to go at it alone, while others prefer to enlist the assistance of an expert. If you have chosen the latter, the real question then becomes selecting the professional that you will employ to guide you through the legal maze toward a final resolution of your case. There are two types of experts that are well equipped to handle your divorce matter: divorce lawyers and divorce mediators.
A divorce lawyer is a highly-trained legal professional who can advise you regarding your rights under the law and provide guidance and support during the stressful divorce process if you want to litigate. Litigation means, essentially, presenting your case in court before a judge. Your divorce lawyer will only represent your interests throughout the divorce, and is not permitted to give legal advice to your spouse. You may need a divorce attorney if the following facts sound familiar:
- You (or your spouse) want to know what rights you are entitled to under the law. Only a skilled divorce lawyer can provide you with this legal information.
- Your spouse has indicated that he or she will not cooperate with you to process and resolve the divorce.
- The circumstances surrounding the end of your marriage have rendered communication virtually impossible. If there is little to no dialogue between you and your spouse, it may be necessary to hire a divorce lawyer to articulate your side for you, and to set forth your position.
- One party has little or no knowledge of the income or finances of the other, or believes the other party will not be honest in providing financial information.
- You and your spouse cannot discuss or attempt to resolve even the most minor issues without yelling or losing your temper.
A divorce mediator is a highly-trained professional who will act as a third-party “neutral” throughout your divorce matter if you do not want to litigate. This expert can provide information about the divorce process in general, and can assist you and your spouse work through and resolve all issues related to your divorce. However, as the term “neutral” implies, the mediator will not provide legal advice and does not represent the interests of either party. Your case might be better suited for mediation if the facts below describe your situation:
- You and your spouse are open to the idea of divorce mediation. Since mediation requires the agreement of both parties, this is a must.
- Neither you, nor your spouse, wants to step foot inside a courtroom. Many people prefer to resolve their dispute in the privacy of a mediator’s conference room, instead of in open court.
- The lines of communication are still open between you and your spouse. This does not mean that you agree on everything (or anything); however, both parties are willing to sit down and discuss their positions.
- Each party is familiar with the income and finances of the other, and each party is willing to disclose information fairly and efficiently.
- You and your spouse are motivated to reach an amicable resolution with the help of the divorce mediator.
As you can see, there are both benefits and drawbacks associated with hiring a divorce attorney or engaging a divorce mediator. Neither process is perfect. Therefore, the selection of a professional that you intend to use in your divorce is an extremely important decision that requires taking a look at your individual situation to determine what is right for you.