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What Is the Difference Between Divorce Lawyers and Mediators?


Financial hardship in marriage is plenty stressful, but financial hardship during and immediately after divorce is much worse.  Your goal is to avoid unnecessary delays and unnecessary expenses so that you can finalize your divorce and rebuild your life, financially and otherwise.  When the spouses have vastly unequal incomes, then the higher income spouse usually pays for both parties’ lawyers, either because the spouses agree to this during mediation or because the court orders the higher income spouse to pay.  You might think that your divorce would be less expensive if you and your spouse only hired one lawyer, or if you did not hire any lawyers at all.  Going to trial is expensive, and you want to avoid that, but your chances of avoiding trial are best if each spouse hires a separate lawyer.  If you try to divorce without lawyers, the court might finalize your divorce quickly, but the marital settlement agreement or parenting plan you and your spouse agree to without lawyers may later lead you back to court.  A Boca Raton divorce lawyer can help you draft a marital settlement agreement and parenting plan that stand the test of time.

The Family Court Can Order You to Attend Mediation, but It Cannot Order You to Consult a Lawyer

Some couples finalize their divorces without ever hiring a lawyer. Several counties in Florida offer self-help services where couples representing themselves in divorce can have court employees review the documents to ensure that they meet legal requirements, but these employees cannot give legal advice.  Whether it is reasonable to attempt to divorce without a lawyer depends on how much property you and your spouse own together, how long you were married, and whether you have children.

Whether or not the spouses have lawyers, the court can order you to attend mediation.  The goal of mediation is for the parties to draft a marital settlement agreement (MSA) and, if they have minor children, a parenting plan.  If they are able to do this, the court accepts the MSA and parenting plan and finalizes the divorce.  If not, the case goes to trial.

Hiring One Lawyer for Two Spouses Is a Terrible Idea

While it is technically possible for two spouses to hire one lawyer to represent both of them, it almost never turns out well.  Conflicts of interest arise at every turn, and eventually the parties end up hiring separate lawyers.  Divorce lawyers are not mediators, and to maximize the chances of arriving at a satisfactory MSA and parenting plan without going to trial, your family needs two divorce lawyers and one mediator.  Even when couples choose collaborative divorce, each spouse is represented by his or her own lawyer.  Hiring a lawyer does not mean that your divorce has to be acrimonious.

Contact Schwartz | White About Getting Through Your Divorce

A South Florida family law attorney can help you finalize your divorce through mediation without going to trial.  Contact Schwartz | White in Boca Raton, Florida about your case.

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