Parties often ask what is the best way to proceed when initially contemplating separation and/or divorce. Generally speaking, parties are encouraged to try to reach an agreement to resolve whatever issues have arisen in any legal matter. In family law, agreements are especially encouraged due to the personal nature of the issues at hand along with the belief that it is better for the parties to draft their own agreement rather than allow a stranger to dictate their family dynamics going forward. Additionally, litigation or time spent in court is often the most expensive aspect of a divorce matter.
Both mediators and divorce attorneys can help you negotiate or draft a settlement agreement. The key difference is a mediator is an impartial third party where as an attorney is representing one party’s interest. This is not to say a divorce cannot be resolved with only one attorney; simply that the attorney cannot give advice to both parties since it would be a conflict of interest. Instead, the attorney should make it clear to the unrepresented party their role in the process and the limitations on communication between the attorney and the unrepresented party. Further, it is possible for both parties to have independent counsel and still reach a settlement agreement. If mediation is successful, an attorney may still be needed to file and process the divorce matter.