Despite what popular culture tells us, it is very common for people who are getting a divorce to reach their own agreements. Typically people who reach their own agreements come up with the “big picture” agreement but still need some assistance fine tuning the details or drafting documents. It’s at this point where one person will usually call a lawyer or mediator and say they want to do an uncontested divorce. Although an uncontested divorce may make sense in your particular situation, kitchen table mediation should be considered as well.
Uncontested Divorce. An uncontested divorce involves one lawyer working with one client to draft the agreement the parties have reached. Alternatively, if no agreement has been reached, then the lawyer may work with the client to create a proposal to give to the other spouse.
The lawyer in an uncontested divorce only represents the spouse who hired him or her and cannot represent both people. The job of the lawyer is to provide legal advice to the client who hired the lawyer and to draft the documents on his or her behalf. Clients who call about an uncontested divorce are often disappointed to learn that one lawyer cannot represent both clients even if the clients have reached their own agreement.
You can learn more about uncontested divorce here.
Kitchen Table Mediation. In kitchen table mediation both clients work with one mediator to fine tune the agreements they have already reached. If the clients have not already reached their own agreements then the mediator can work with both of them to create a mutually beneficial settlement. Once a complete agreement has been reached the mediator drafts the documents on behalf of both clients. The mediator works with both people but does not represent either person and cannot provide legal advice to either person.
You can learn more about kitchen table mediation here.
Uncontested vs. Kitchen Table Mediation. The main difference between these two processes is that both clients participate in the kitchen table mediation whereas only one client participates in the uncontested divorce. One of the potential issues with an uncontested divorce is that the person who did not hire the lawyer may be concerned that the documents were drafted by “their ex’s lawyer.” This may make the non-hiring spouse suspicious and cause them to hire their own lawyer to review the documents. Although there is nothing wrong with this, it usually creates a certain level of mistrust and often adds more expense than the clients were planning on.
Kitchen Table Mediation tends to cost less and take less time for a couple of reasons. First, in kitchen table mediation both clients receive the same information at the same time from a neutral source, i.e., the mediator. Instead of getting conflicting advice, clients receive neutral information which they can evaluate for themselves. Next, both clients get the benefit of offering input in the drafting of the judgment instead of one lawyer drafting the documents on behalf of just one person. Since the
mediator worked with both clients it is more likely that the documents will reflect the agreement that the parties reached (versus one lawyer drafting on behalf of his or her client).
The Verdict. If both people are willing to participate in the process then kitchen table mediation usually makes more sense than an uncontested divorce. However, if someone is not willing to come and meet with their spouse and the mediator then an uncontested divorce may be the better option.