Do I NEED a mediator?

Occasionally people will ask something like this: “We have figured out our entire agreement. Do we really need a mediator?” The answer is – no, you do not need a mediator – but it’s probably a good idea to have one. There are usually two main concerns someone has when they ask this question.

Concern #1 – We are getting along really well – we don’t want a mediator (or lawyer) to screw that up!

This is a fair concern. Rightly or wrongly, lawyers have a reputation for creating arguments rather than solving problems. However, a mediator is not acting as a lawyer (although many mediators are also lawyers). The mediator’s job is to work with both clients to help develop an agreement that will work well for each of them. A really good mediator will help identify shared interests which will “enlarge the pie” for both clients. In short, a skilled mediator should improve the situation, not make it worse.

Concern #2 – We have figured everything out – we don’t actually need to mediate anything!

You are probably right at a high level. However, there are always at least some details that have been overlooked. Instead of mediating, the mediator in this situation can help you fine-tune the agreement you have already reached or figure out if there is anything you have overlooked.

Here’s an example: It is common for people to decide that one person is going to keep the house and buy the other person out. Here is what they may not have considered:

• How will they get the other person off the mortgage and in what timeframe?
• What happens if the other person cannot be removed from the mortgage?
• Should the non-owner be removed from the deed? What happens if the owner dies while the non-owner is still one the mortgage if the non-owner has been removed from the deed?

The mediator in this situation isn’t really mediating, per se. Rather, he or she is acting as a creative problem-solver to help you optimize the agreement you have already reached.

So why hire a mediator in this situation?

Reason #1 – This is probably your first or second divorce. The mediator has dealt with hundreds of divorces.

Experience counts for a lot. Even if you think you have covered every possible detail, the mediator will almost certainly offer some insight or help generate some idea that you had not considered.

Reason #2 – The “do-it-yourself” paperwork is more complicated than it seems.

There are several options for online divorce paperwork. The forms you fill out yourself are really only suitable for very straightforward situations with little or no complexity. You can also pay an online service or a paralegal service but these are often riddled with errors and not sufficient in highly detailed agreements.

A mediator who is also lawyer can draft all of the paperwork for you and submit it on your behalf.

In short, a mediator can provide valuable insight even if you think you have already figured everything out. A mediator can also prepare the paperwork on your behalf.