The Role of the Consulting or Review Attorney in Mediation
The mediation process allows you and your spouse to tailor a settlement to your own unique needs rather than have a third party make decisions on your behalf. That makes it a preferred choice for many couples. While in this process, questions may arise about relevant law and the legal and practical impact of proposals for settlement. Having independent counsel, experienced in the mediation process, can help you feel empowered in decision-making. It can also be helpful in developing options and working through impasse in the negotiations.
A consulting attorney will generally meet with you prior to the first mediation session and provide you with a perspective of relevant law and your rights and obligations under the law that should be considered. As a client in the mediation process, you can look to the law for guidance while not necessarily being directed by the law. Your attorney helps you prepare for the mediation by assisting you in gathering relevant financial and other information. Your attorney may raise questions or issues you may not have considered. He or she will also brainstorm with you and provide legal and practical points of reference for evaluating settlement options. The goal is to honor the mediation process and keep it productive. As a neutral, the mediator advocates for a fair process not for either party. The consulting attorney advocates for his or her client while supporting the mediation process. There may be questions which you are unwilling to share in front of your spouse or ideas for settlement that you want to explore with your own attorney before presenting them.
It is important to understand that you, the client, have complete control over how often you meet with the consulting attorney. The frequency depends on your own needs and the issues involved. Having a deeper understanding of relevant law and the impact of various options along the way can help to develop a more durable agreement. Having an opportunity to seek advice and counsel during the mediation is preferable to waiting until the very end as it may be more difficult to renegotiate an issue that is considered settled by your spouse.
Finally, when a draft agreement is produced, your consulting attorney will review it with you and make any necessary revisions to make sure that it reflects your intentions and protects your interests. The settlement agreement is a binding contract and it is important that you understand your rights and obligations before signing it. When choosing a consulting attorney, it is important to inquire about the attorney’s mediation experience to ensure that the process choice you have chosen is respected. A good consulting attorney is there to protect you and assist you in the negotiations while respecting the mediation process you have chosen.