A divorce mediator is a neutral third-party that tries to facilitate legal negotiations between spouses who are getting divorced. If you and your spouse cannot come to conciliatory terms on your own, you may require the services of a divorce mediator. Some spouses conduct the mediation with just a mediator and no lawyers (3-way mediation), and others bring their own lawyers to aid their representation in front of a private mediator (5-way mediation).
Hiring a divorce mediator is not the same as hiring an attorney. A divorce mediator has the interests of both spouses in mind. That’s why your divorce lawyer in Scottsdale cannot typically act as a mediator; the lawyer will always act on your behalf, and the same goes for the other party’s lawyer as well. Divorce mediators listen to both parties, assist positive communications, and try to get the divorce negotiations going.
Here is a list of qualities to look for when finding a divorce mediator in Arizona:
Neutrality is Very Important
The purpose of hiring a divorce mediator is to level the playing field and make the talking table less hostile and aggressive. So make sure the person you hire is absolutely neutral. That means no friends, family, colleagues or divorce lawyers. The divorce mediator will act as an advocate, but not a legal advocate. All responsible divorce mediators encourage spouses to hire divorce lawyers separately to review any legally-binding agreements. Mediations can be one day or a series of days. Both spouses may want to consult their own privately retained lawyers before, during or after mediation sessions.
Search for Mediators who Offer Flat Fees
No matter what, you will both have to pay for a divorce mediator. Good divorce mediators understand that the financial costs of divorce are high, and offer affordable rates. Ideally, find a mediator that charges only a flat fee for all services provided. Avoid the ones that charge various additional fees. Divorce mediation in Arizona can cost anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000. The spouses can split the costs. This is usually far cheaper than heavily contested litigation with lawyers on both sides. Even if mediation ‘fails’, you will be far better equipped to enter the court system against your spouse with your separately retained legal counsel.
Choose a Mediator who Knows the Law
Divorce mediators do not have to be lawyers, but they typically are and are always knowledgeable about the law. It’s best to choose one of these mediators so he or she can help you both make informed decisions regarding the separation process. During negotiations, an educated mediator will be able to make suggestions according to the established law. You can then have these suggestions run by your lawyer to see if they are in your best interest.
Strong and Stable Communication is a Must
Divorce mediators typically excel in communication. However, communication goes both ways. If you are, for any reason, uncomfortable communicating with the divorce mediator, it’s time to look for a new one. Mediators must encourage fairness with the other spouse and act swiftly to diffuse problematic situations. Without the proper manner of communication, a divorce mediator will not offer many benefits to you. You can walk out, your spouse can walk out, and in some cases, the mediator will terminate the session if he or she believes that a final mediated settlement is not achievable.
It’s best to hire an experienced divorce mediator who has been doing this job for years. Many private litigation attorneys practice divorce mediation part-time. You might also consider a full-time divorce mediator who can dedicate full attention to your case. The problem with divorce lawyers acting as mediators is that lawyers are used to battling for a client, not acting as a neutral party. So, hire a neutral mediator and hire a lawyer separately to watch out for your best interest in the negotiations. As noted, some parties elect to conduct 5-way mediations: (1) Husband (2) Husband’s legal counsel (3) Wife (4) Wife’s legal counsel and (5) the Mediator.