Divorce Mediators vs. Divorce Lawyers: What’s the Difference?
Deciding to end a marriage is never easy. For many couples, the choice to file for divorce can lead to more overwhelming decisions, responsibilities, and a never-ending list of tasks. From hiring an attorney to modifying living arrangements to forming a financial plan, choosing to end a marriage is often the beginning of an extensive process.
It’s natural to feel unsure of where to begin after filing for divorce. Family law is a complex area of our legal system that can be difficult for the average person to navigate. It’s wise to begin by seeking legal counsel from a qualified divorce attorney, as they can direct your steps and review your options going forward.
How Do Mediated Divorces Work?
Understanding the different divorce types and determining which one is best suited to your needs can be challenging, as each state has its own unique laws and legal processes when it comes to the dissolution of marriage.
Put simply, there are three options for divorce that couples can pursue in California. Keep reading to learn more about the characteristics and eligibility requirements of each.
Types of Divorces in California
Every marriage is unique, which is why the preferred route to divorce can vary from couple to couple. What works well for one pair may not work effectively for another, and vice versa. Consider the following options for divorce:
- Contested Divorce: Also known as a traditional divorce, a contested divorce entails a couple going to court to reach a settlement. If the couple cannot agree on the proposed terms, the judge will intervene to determine which decision is in the best interests of the couple and any children they share.
- Uncontested Divorce: A couple is only eligible to seek an uncontested divorce if both spouses agree on all divorce-related terms, including child custody, alimony, property division, asset distribution, and other applicable issues. Uncontested divorces are commonly sought due to perceived advantages, such as being less costly, more efficient, and more dignified.
- Mediated Divorce: A mediated divorce can offer couples many of the same advantages as an uncontested divorce. A foundational difference is that a couple isn't required to agree on all divorce terms prior to mediation; rather, a mediated divorce is intended to help disputing parties reach a settlement on their own with the help of a neutral third-party mediator.
Benefits of Mediated Divorces
Not unlike uncontested divorces, a mediated divorce can offer some couples considerable advantages, including:
- Efficiency. Rather than undergoing a divorce in a full courtroom presided over by a judge, a mediated divorce has limited party involvement. More often than not, mediation will only involve the couple, the mediator, and in some cases, each spouse’s attorney. Naturally, the minimal involvement of mediated divorces can allow couples to achieve resolution faster instead of participating in lengthy divorce litigation in court.
- Affordability. This advantage goes hand in hand with the efficiency of mediated divorces, as their shorter duration and lack of court intervention can mean fewer legal expenses and court fees.
- Privacy. Again, the opportunity to settle your divorce away from a full courtroom is an advantage to many couples, as it permits them to retain a sense of privacy during this often-emotional legal process. This can also make a mediated divorce less difficult on any children a couple may have.
- Control. A mediated divorce allows couples to stay in the driver’s seat instead of having a judge take the wheel. While a mediator will be present during the discussion, their role is to provide legal information and facilitate constructive construction, not impose decisions upon the couple. Ultimately, it’s up to the spouses to reach an agreement on their own.
Are Mediators the Same as Lawyers?
No. It’s important to understand that a traditional mediator is not an attorney, but a trained conflict resolution professional whose role is to oversee constructive discussion and negotiation between spouses during a mediated divorce.
While part of a mediator’s role in a mediated divorce is to provide general legal information, such as clarity regarding legal processes and statutes, they are not legally allowed to give clients legal advice. However, this isn’t to say that a mediator can’t also be an attorney. In some cases, a divorce may be handled by an attorney-mediator.
Unlike mediators, who lack the proper certification, an attorney-mediator is a bar-certified legal professional who can practice law. Although the role of an attorney-mediator is similar to the role of a mediator, there are notable differences between the two roles that can impact how your divorce is handled.
Are there advantages to working with an attorney-mediator over a traditional mediator?
While being an attorney isn’t required to become a professional mediator, most mediators are also attorneys who practice family law or another practice area.
There are various benefits to working with an attorney-mediator in a mediated divorce, as an attorney-mediator’s legal experience, skills, and knowledge can equip them to better understand the unique characteristics of each case, determine the best legal strategy to help spouses reach an agreement, and perform their role more effectively.
We Believe in Resolving Family Disputes with Dignity
Our caring California divorce mediation attorneys are here to help California couples navigate the ups and downs of divorce. At Alternative Divorce Solutions, we understand that divorce is often one of the most difficult seasons in a person’s life. That’s why we’re committed to providing our clients with customized legal solutions that are affordable, private, and painless as possible.
Our founding Attorney-Mediator Lani Baron was led to start Alternative Divorce Solutions after witnessing her own parents undergo a highly-litigated and contentious divorce. Under Attorney Baron’s leadership, our compassionate team of experienced divorce mediators is devoted to serving our clients by offering alternative dispute resolutions for divorcing couples in California.
A divorce doesn’t have to be a hostile courtroom battle. Our mediation attorneys are here to help your family reach a resolution that is civil and dignified. Call (949) 558-2624 today to request a free consultation.