I’ve heard that women always do worse in mediation than in the traditional process where each side hires a lawyer. How can I be sure I won’t be taken advantage of in mediation?
Mediation is a process in which a neutral mediator, who does not represent either party, tries to help two parties reach an agreement over their disputed issues.
Even if the mediator is a lawyer, the mediator may not give legal advice to either you or your spouse. You and your spouse will each need to get your own lawyer to advise you about the law and how it applies in your case. Although the individual lawyers typically do not attend the mediation sessions, both you and your spouse will have the benefit of independent legal advice. Your lawyer will also review any agreements that you make before they become part of your divorce judgment. Having your own legal advice is the first step in making sure that your agreement is fair.
The second step in making sure you don’t get taken advantage of in mediation depends on you. If you don’t understand your financial situation and are unwilling or unable to learn about it, or if you are afraid of your spouse, or if you have been the victim of abuse from your spouse, or if you don’t think you can negotiate properly on your own behalf, then mediation may not be the best choice for you – unless, perhaps, you can have your lawyer attend the mediation sessions with you. On the other hand, if you feel you are able to understand your lawyer’s advice, understand your financial situation, and speak up for what you want while in negotiations with your spouse, then you will very likely be able to successfully mediate your case.
Karen Covy is a lawyer, mediator, educator and the author of When Happily Ever After Ends: How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially, and Legally. You can read more of Karen’s family law articles on her website: www.karencovy.com.