Difference Between a Mediator & an Attorney for Divorce in New York

by Elizabeth Rayne
A mediator is a neutral party and will not take the side of either spouse.

A mediator is a neutral party and will not take the side of either spouse.

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Divorcing couples may pursue mediation as a way to avoid the time and stress of going to court. During mediation, a mediator serves as a neutral third party to help spouses work out an agreement outside of court; either spouse may be represented by an attorney who only advocates for one spouse.

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Mediation Overview

Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution; this method helps divorcing couples work with one another to reach a settlement agreement instead of going to court and having a judge decide the terms of the divorce. During mediation, both spouses will meet with a neutral third party, known as a mediator, who will help them create a mutually acceptable agreement. If the spouses can agree, mediation may be a faster and less stressful process than going to court. Generally, mediation is optional for divorcing couples in New York, but the court may require a couple to attend mediation before proceeding to a trial.

Finding a Mediator

New York residents have several options for finding a divorce mediator. You may receive free mediation for child custody disputes through your local Community Dispute Resolution Center, which also gives referrals to mediation services related to financial and other divorce issues. New York City residents may receive free mediation sessions through the court. Further, all New York residents with a filed divorce case may ask the court to refer them to a reduced-fee court-based mediation program.

Role of Mediator

During mediation, the mediator does not represent the interests of either spouse and will not have a bias in favor of either spouse. Instead, the mediator's role is to help each spouse communicate his needs and understand the needs of the other spouse. It is ultimately up to each spouse to decide whether or not to agree to any settlement offer. The mediator will let the spouses know that they do not have to come to an agreement and have the right to have their attorneys present during the process. Further, the mediator will encourage each spouse to fully disclose relevant information.

Role of Attorney

As opposed to a mediator, an attorney represents the interests of one spouse. An attorney will provide advice to his client throughout the divorce process, including mediation. While spouses may represent themselves during mediation, they may also hire an attorney to represent their interests and advocate on their behalf during the mediation process. Before signing any settlement agreements reached during mediation, either spouse may have an attorney review the agreement.