Mediation is a powerful tool for resolving disputes outside of the courtroom. It offers parties an opportunity to find mutually agreeable solutions with the assistance of a neutral third party, the mediator. Participating in mediation offers two distinct options: with or without the involvement of lawyers, each carrying its own set of considerations.
Mediation Without Lawyers
In this scenario, two parties engage in the mediation process without the presence of lawyers. The mediator facilitates joint sessions where the parties work towards a preliminary agreement. It’s important to note that while mediators are skilled in facilitating communication and negotiation, they cannot provide either party with legal advice.
Once an agreement is reached, the mediator typically advises the parties to seek legal counsel before signing the agreement. This step is crucial, as legal professionals can provide insights into the potential consequences and implications of the agreement. Without legal guidance, parties may inadvertently overlook important legal implications, potentially leading to unintended consequences down the line.
This option is typically quite economical when a satisfactory resolution is reached.
Mediation With Lawyers
In this approach, each party retains their own lawyer, who actively participates in the mediation process. The lawyers usually engage in a thorough exchange of documents prior to mediation and prepare their client’s position based on relevant legal considerations, such as property and debt division, child and spousal support, and other pertinent legal issues.
Having lawyers involved from the outset equips clients with a solid understanding of their rights and obligations. This knowledge empowers them to make informed decisions during the mediation sessions. If an agreement is reached, it is then drafted with the input and guidance of the lawyers, ensuring that it aligns with the parties’ best interests and legal rights.
Benefits of Early Lawyer Involvement
Regardless of the mediation approach chosen, involving a lawyer early on is highly recommended. Even if parties choose to attend mediation without lawyers present, they can still seek legal advice in a limited capacity. This involves consulting with a lawyer before or after mediation sessions.
This proactive approach can prevent post-mediation conflicts, as parties are better equipped to address any unforeseen legal implications before the agreement is drafted. In instances where lawyers are brought in after the agreement has been drafted but before it has been signed, one party may seek adjustments to the draft agreement after consulting their lawyer, which can be met with resistance and even hostility from the other side. This is often because they perceive the initial agreement as a settled matter. Conversely, when a lawyer provides guidance throughout the mediation process, there tends to be a smoother flow of negotiations. This, in turn, ideally leads to fewer requests for changes once the agreement is drafted and finalized during the mediation process.
Regardless of which option you choose, mediation is a valuable alternative to resolving disputes without resorting to litigation.