How to Select a Divorce Mediator

If you’ve been following me, you already know that I am a huge proponent of divorce mediation.

A divorce mediator works as a neutral and impartial third party.  Although many divorce lawyers in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan and around the state work as mediators, when they are in that role, they are not there to give you legal advice.

You can use a non lawyer to help you get through your divorce.

The non-lawyer mediators tend to be less directive and your work together is likely to result in an agreement that comes from you minimal input from the mediator.  But a potential downside is that these mediators are often not as conversant in how settlement agreements work.  Personally, when I clerked for a judge on Staten Island and in Brooklyn I helped to resolve hundreds of hotly contested, high conflict divorces.  I saw what makes agreements last and what makes them fall apart.  This is a skill that divorce lawyers in Staten Island and the rest of the city are more likely to have than are non-lawyer mediators.

On the other hand, non-lawyer mediators may be less expensive and less bossy.

Let’s face it, we lawyers LOVE to tell people what to do.  We kind of can’t help it.  We think we have all the answers. And while sometimes thats true, sometimes our clients actually know what they want, even if it is very different from what we know a court would award.  When I mediate, before any final agreements are made, I all but insist that my clients consult with a divorce lawyer.  You need to understand what your rights are before you give them up.



man and woman at crossroads

It may be that you want to use your therapist as your mediator.

There is no law saying you cannot have your therapist work as your mediator but divorce lawyers on Staten Island and around the city who practiced in the courts and have been trained in mediation bring another level of skill to resolve your case because of their legal background.  As a prior divorce lawyer on Staten Island and Brooklyn, I have seen loads of mediation agreements crumble because they lack a degree of specificity that is necessary.  On the other hand, you do not want to hire a divorce lawyer who does not specialize in mediation.  You need to be sure that the person you hire is truly able to sit in a space of impartial neutrality.  The mediator needs to be clear in her process and in her practice to help you arrive at a resolution that will truly last for years to come.

When you mediate your agreement, be sure that it has clear agreements.  Agreements to agree cannot be enforced. For instance, an agreement that says “the father’s parenting time shall be open and reasonable” could result in the father never seeing the child.  Or, the mother shall pay for reasonable expenses of the child, could result in no payments of anything. Who is the arbiter of reasonability in that case? The judge.

You need to have clear understandings all that can go wrong, you may find yourself in court after the fact.  It has been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  I do not mean to sound overly dramatic, but truly, you need to engage a mediator who understands both the laws, the court and the emotional parts of the divorce process.  The mediation process is a fabulous way to resolve your divorce, even if it is mid or high conflict.  Especially with online mediation available even the most difficult entrenched divorces can be resolved with ease.  The most important thing is that you higher someone who knows the issues and the questions to ask you so that you can arrive at a clear, unequivocal agreement that stands the test of time.

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DISCLAIMER: The commentary, advice, and opinions from Gabrielle Hartley are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice or mental health services. You should contact an attorney and/or mental health professional in your state to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. 


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