Hiring a Mediator versus Hiring an Attorney

mediator versus attorney

The legal system can be confusing and complicated, especially when it comes to divorce. The formalities of suing another person may seem reasonable when a product fails to meet its intended purpose, or a large corporation fails to meet its duty to the public. However, when one thinks about how a family fits into this complicated book of rules, it becomes far less reasonable. To think of one spouse suing the other to end a relationship, doesn’t quite fit the archaic rules of court. Fortunately, there is a way to make it make sense, and that way is mediation.   

Many different legal professionals may help you with your dispute. You may hire an attorney, a mediator, or even use an arbitrator. To make things more complex, lawyers or judges are often also mediators, which can make establishing the difference between a mediator and an attorney difficult. So what exactly is the difference between a mediator and an attorney? Here are a few key differences that you should know. 

The Attorney’s Role

An attorney is your legal representative. They are ethically bound to represent your best interests and only yours. Their job is to make sure that you get the best deal possible, and they do not take into consideration the other party’s interests or satisfaction with the solution. In some circumstances, this is appealing, especially if you will never have to look at the opposing party again. However, when the opposing party is the mother or father of your children, and you will continue to be in their lives forever, that creates a very tumultuous existence – especially for your children.     

The Mediator’s Role

A mediator does not owe you or the other party any type of duty. Rather, a mediator is there to assist you and the other party in coming together and creating a mutually beneficial solution. They work with each party (not against one or the other) to create an agreement that can foster a better long-term relationship. Mediators take the big picture into account, including family relationships and dynamics, the long-term functionality of the agreement, and the stress on each party.

Mediators are facilitators, not advocates, and are highly skilled in opening the lines of communication between parties and improving relationships along the way. They help to broaden the possibilities available to resolve the issues at hand and assist each party to see the other’s perspective to create empathy between the parties. One of the greatest benefits of mediation is both parties’ beliefs and perspectives are part of the resolution. Unlike when litigating with attorneys where each attorney is blind to the other side’s perspective and has nothing but their own clients’ side of the story.   

Mediation Is More Affordable 

Typically, in a dispute, each side will have an attorney. Each party pays its attorney separately. In family law cases the payment will be hourly. Court costs and fees can also be incredibly expensive. If your conflict goes to trial, you will be required to pay for witness statements, court reporters, and other expenses.  

Mediators may be paid hourly, but there is one cost rather than two since the parties are using one professional instead of two. Some mediators offer flat-fee packages for typical disputes like divorce or child custody. Because mediators are specially trained to minimize conflict and promote agreement, conflicts don’t require as much time to resolve. Cases that may take several years in court are often handled within less than 10 hours in mediation. 

At San Diego Family Mediation Center, we utilize flat-fee services to provide some stability and control to our clients as they embark on this emotional journey. We understand that money is tighter than ever when trying to separate households and we try to provide certainty wherever we can.

by: Jennifer Segura

Jennifer Segura with west coast family mediation center
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