Do you need an attorney during mediation?

The prevalence of divorce among countless couples today has given rise to a number of effective options that can help get the process over with as quickly and painlessly as possible. Utah residents may have heard about "amicable" divorces, which basically translate to an uncontested, non-litigated way to end a marriage. Uncontested divorce does not necessarily mean there are no disputes in the divorce, however. Disputes are often the main reason a couple decides to split, and usually these issues require outside help to resolve.

Ins and outs of mediation

Divorcing couples may be told that they will not need a divorce attorney if they choose mediation as an option. There are many reasons why having an attorney is important for a mediated divorce. First, spouses need to understand what happens during mediation. According to the American Bar Association, mediation involves an impartial third party to help a couple resolve their disputes without going to court. Mediation is known as a more peaceful way to settle conflict, as long as both parties are respectful of each other and can be reasonable in coming to an agreement.

Mediation has many benefits. The most common divorce disputes, from dividing property to agreeing on parenting time, are often able to be resolved with the help of a mediator. Children may be spared the heartbreak of seeing their parents fight if they are able to peacefully resolve their issues instead. Divorcing spouses often learn new ways to communicate and cooperate, which can be helpful later on while joint parenting. Also, the discussions conducted during mediation can remain private, while there is no privacy during a litigated divorce.

Mediation issues that may require an attorney

However, not everything turns out perfectly during mediation all the time, states Forbes. There are some instances in which an attorney may be useful to protect the interests of clients. These include:

  • Needing to start over if negotiations get to a standstill
  • Having a mediator who is inexperienced or unfairly biased
  • Determining if a spouse is hiding assets
  • One spouse being abusive, controlling or intimidating
  • A mediation agreement that is poorly drafted or unacceptable

It is recommended for each spouse to have an attorney read through the agreement before either party signs. An attorney may be able to help his or her client understand the terms of the agreement and how it may affect the parties in the future. Mediators are supposed to remain neutral and are not authorized to give legal advice, which can present problems for spouses who do not understand the terms or are easily intimidated. Mediation can certainly be completed without the aid of an attorney. However, it can be cost-effective, especially over the long run, to be represented by a competent attorney at mediation.