Helen Stein, a family lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, answers:
The costs involved in the hiring of two attorneys can be quite extensive, and the tension that you feel is understandable. There are some ways in which you can cut costs and ease some of the tension you are experiencing. One way is to explore the possibility of attending mediation with your spouse, without the presence of your individual attorneys. Your attorney will still be able to represent you, and in fact, it’s a good idea to seek your attorney’s opinion as to the propriety of this type of mediation. In this method, you and your spouse will be empowered, guided and educated by an attorney mediator who is a neutral participant and trained to facilitate agreements.
The mediator’s goal is to facilitate a fair agreement between you on all issues necessary to the dissolution of your marriage. At the conclusion, outside of mediation, you will have the opportunity to have your own attorney render a second opinion by reviewing and, if necessary, suggesting changes to the proposed agreement. Attending mediation as early in the process as possible diminishes the adversarial feel you may have when using two attorneys. Your representative attorneys are presumably advocating positions on your behalf, and among other things, must operate under the applicable rules and ethical requirements necessitating expensive discovery of information each from the other. These mandates are not the same for an attorney who is in the role of a mediator.
Indeed, some couples start the process using a pre-suit, pro se mediation approach, without ever having hired their own attorneys in the first place. This will save the couple a lot of money, time and stress. The process of pre-suit, pro se mediation in family cases is designed to help the family in transition by assisting the couple to share assets and family resources, rather than take positions as to the disposition of these matters. The process is collaborative and private; it fosters communication, negotiation and ultimate accord. In this legally sound approach, it is you and your spouse who agree on the terms of the divorce, with the guidance of one attorney who, acting as mediator, serves you both.