Divorce mediation: To have or not to have legal counsel?

There are a few ways to get through the divorce process. In the state of Washington, mediation is something that courts want to see couples try before they turn to litigation. Mediation involves each party meeting in a neutral location with a neutral third party to negotiate settlement terms. While it is possible to go through the entire mediation and divorce process without the assistance of legal counsel, doing so is not necessarily advised.

Those who choose to go through mediation without the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney on their side chance walking away from their marriages with settlement terms that do not serve their best interests. A mediator can answer a lot of one’s questions and can make sure each party is aware of state laws regarding specific issues, but he or she is prohibited from siding with either party or assisting one side achieve a better settlement. This is why one might wish to have legal counsel present at mediation sessions or, at least, have an attorney review any proposed terms before one signs off on them. Attorney involvement can be as much as one feels is necessary.

If attorney guidance is wanted throughout mediation, it is suggested that one find legal counsel who has been specially trained in mediation. It is good to find an attorney who has a positive attitude about the mediation process. It is also good to find legal counsel whose clients have had a positive experience with the mediation process.

Mediation is not necessarily a walk in the park. Some divorcing couples in Washington can get through it quickly and with settlement terms that work for them, but others may find it takes more time and effort than they thought it would. At the end of the day, the divorce process is not a race. It is okay if mediation takes longer than one thought it would if that means litigation can be avoided, and a fair divorce agreement can be reached. If, however, mediation does not seem to be going anywhere, legal counsel can help one take the matter to court.

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