he question of whether or not to hire an attorney before, during, or after mediation is an important one. Participants in mediation can reach agreements with each other and make their agreements legal by filing the necessary court documents – the official complaint in divorce, your settlement agreement, an affidavit of consent, a waiver of notice of intention to request entry of a divorce decree, a praecipe to transmit record, a praecipe of service and a state statistical form. All of these forms should be available through the prothonotary’s office at your courthouse (source: Legal Zoom). However, is it wise to do it all without legal counsel?
“Legal Counsel” is a term of significant importance in conflict resolution. No agreement can be made legal if it is at odds with the law. But understanding the nuances of the law can be important in reaching, and ultimately crafting an agreement. That is where legal counsel can make a difference.
While the majority of divorce considerations can be settled without much knowledge of law (because the law is often vague or flexible in dealing with issues in divorce), there are important situations or decisions that may arise that might benefit from input from a legal professional, for example alimony, child support, or some division of assets scenarios. Lawyers can speak to the trends and norms in how issues are being resolved, and this input can have a potentially beneficial impact on reaching an agreement with which parties can be satisfied over the long run.
If you have reached an overall agreement in divorce mediation, it is also beneficial to have an attorney review that agreement to make sure that it is both reasonable and fair. This is not a requirement, but consulting with a “mediation-friendly” attorney can help reinforce a participant’s commitment to the agreement, or may guide them in revising it to make it lasting and legal. Many people are able to successfully reach lasting agreements in mediation without legal counsel. But seeking legal advice before, during, or after mediation can be the difference between long-term satisfaction or remorse.