When an inquiry comes in for someone inquiring about getting a divorce, someone from my office attempts to ascertain from them whether they are interested in using our office as a neutral divorce mediator. If they’re interested in mediation, we invite them to bring their spouse to come in for a free initial consultation to meet with me. We explain that I do not, at least initially, meet with the couple one on one, or have an initial consultation with either one of them before meeting the couple together. The consultation is usually up to a half hour in length, although some couples choose to immediately begin mediating that day after the initial consultation.
I might start by telling the couple that I am a divorce lawyer, but in a divorce mediation, I do not act as the lawyer for either side. I inform them that it is recommended that each of them hire and use their own individual review attorneys. I explain that review attorneys are the individuals that will explain the law, their rights, and advise each of them. A review attorney might say, “This is a good deal” or “You might want to change this deal a little bit” or “You won’t do better in litigation” or “You will do better in litigation”. Either side could prepare for mediation sessions, prior to each session, with their review lawyers. They can then debrief with the review attorneys after sessions and prepare for the next. If not beforehand, the time to consult with a review attorney would be when an agreement is drafted. I might mention that in the perfect world everyone uses review attorneys, however, the reality is that not everyone takes me up on that recommendation. I am not sure of the exact number but perhaps half of the mediating individuals use review lawyers and the other half do not. The half that do not perhaps believe that they have educated themselves on the issues and think that the mediated agreement is fair and are ready to do it. Either way I do tell them that review attorneys are recommended but usually not required (there are exceptions).