The mediator’s job is to help the parties find a mutually agreeable and legally supportable solutions, and to then create a Stipulation of Settlement which addresses all the aspects of the divorce settlement. That document, which must meet stringent rules regarding content and language, then becomes the centerpiece of the complete divorce submission sent to the court for a judge’s signature. This is why it is smart and cost effective to use an experienced matrimonial attorney as your mediator, as the attorney/mediator will know how to properly draft your Settlement Agreement so that it meets all of the requirements of New York divorce law, a task that a general mediator may not be able to accomplish.
Mediating a divorce settlement is not appropriate for all cases, however, as the Mediator is not allowed to provide legal advice to his clients, but it can be effective and economical where a couple is on pretty much the same track when it comes to the many financial and custody decisions that will have to be made in order to produce a settlement.
You may still want your own legal counsel
Couples often believe that if they agree to something, it can always be incorporated into the Settlement Agreement, but that is not the case. A voluminous amount of state law controls or strongly influences their options. Also, clients are rarely aware of specific entitlements under the law that are available to them, and a mediator may not be able to address these issues without prompting from one of the clients.
So while a mediator can help lead people to a fair and legally acceptable solution, couples in mediation often find it useful for each party to use an outside attorney to advise them during the process, and to go over the finished agreement when the parties have finished negotiating. If the mediation has been well managed, retaining an attorney to review the agreement adds only a small extra expenses to the process. If, however, a mediator has not followed legal guidelines, or legal entitlements have not been properly addressed, an attorney’s advice before finalizing the agreement will be invaluable.
Breiter and Gura can act as your principal mediator or as an outside advisor
At Breiter and Gura, our attorneys are also trained mediators. If you think your case will benefit from a simpler, stress-free mediation, we can guide you toward a legal settlement. If you have already been through mediation but want your agreement reviewed before it is finalized, our attorneys can offer a full assessment and put your mind at ease.
Even with the limited services of an outside attorney, the mediation process is often the least expensive and least stressful of the various ways of reaching a settlement.