CT Mediation Center is providing this guide with the hopes that you will use this resource to find the right attorney, divorce mediator, or collaborative divorce attorney. Here are some things you should look for during your first (probably phone) interview.
A good attorney-mediator is skilled at listening to you and your story and is a good communicator. A good attorney-mediator is prepared to meet with you, is organized and will help you work through your conflicts in a constructive and systematic way. Divorce is a complex step by step process and a good attorney-mediator helps you understand the entire process.
A good attorney-mediator answers the telephone or responds to your calls or e-mails promptly. They are knowledgeable about the subject matter of your case. They have a background in family law with experience in handling divorce cases. You should work with an attorney-mediator whose background fits the issue to be negotiated in your case. Issues you may need to discuss and negotiate include child custody, child support, spousal support, financial matters, property distribution, retirement and investment distribution, and taxes.
If you decide to mediate, a skilled attorney-mediator will refer you to a reviewing counsel (a separate lawyer who will review your mediated agreement), either at the beginning or at the end of the mediation process.
If you choose not to mediate, an attorney should discuss with you all your options; pro se representation, divorce litigation, collaborative divorce, divorce mediation and divorce co-mediation (gender neutral team OR lawyer/non-lawyer team). You should be made aware that there is more than one way to end your marriage. Litigation, if this is your first option, may be more invasive than it needs to be. A good attorney will offer you all the options available.
If you choose a mediator who is not a lawyer, plan to work closely with a consulting lawyer who can make sure you are covering all the legal aspects as you go through the divorce stages. You should preferably consult with a divorce attorney immediately after your first mediation session and through the entire process. Ask questions: Here are some questions you need to ask:
Questions about Education and Experience
- How many years of experience do you have as an attorney-mediator?
- How many cases have you handled?
- What percentage of your practice is devoted to divorce mediation, litigation or collaborative divorce?
- How many divorce cases have you mediated in the past year?
- How many hours of professional training do you have in mediation, litigation or collaborative divorce?
- How do you solve power imbalance issues, domestic violence issues, and substance abuse and recovery issues?
Questions about Fees
- What is the basic mediation fee?
- What is the fee for the first session only?
- If I want co-mediation is there a different fee?
Questions about Process
- How long is the first session?
- What do I need to bring to the first session?
- How do I prepare for the first session?
- What happens at the second session and subsequent sessions?
- Is there a process that the mediator follows? Is mediation or your representation confidential?
- How long are the mediation sessions and how many sessions do I need?
- Who prepares the agreement?
- Who prepares the Court paperwork?
Write down your first impressions and take notes. Choose an attorney-mediator who you feel listens to you, is qualified to handle your case, is neutral, has vast experience in divorce and family law, and does not have any preexisting relationship with either you or your spouse that would create a conflict of interest. A highly qualified attorney-mediator may work very well with another couple but be the wrong match for you.
Always remember that you should make decisions that feel right and make sense to you.
CT Mediation Center is glad to answer all your questions about divorce mediation, divorce co-mediation and collaborative divorce. Call our offices today at (860) 986-1141 to set your informational appointment.