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Should You Hire a Divorce Attorney or Divorce Mediator?

Deciding to get a divorce is a very difficult decision and not one to be made lightly. There are many things you will need to consider, starting with these 7 points. Once you think you want to move ahead, who do you call? Most think to call a lawyer, which most often leads to the traditional path to a divorce. While there are times you will need to have a lawyer  litigate your divorce in court, it should be one of the last options you choose. Do you need a divorce lawyer or divorce mediator?

The reality is that the vast majority of divorces should not be handled within the court system. Today, many choose a constructive divorce process that facilitates a more positive future rather than one that tears them down. At the top of the list of constructive divorce processes is mediation. 

Let’s look more closely at the differences between working with a litigating divorce attorney and a professional divorce mediator.

What is Litigation with a Divorce Lawyer

The court-centered, traditional divorce process is where each party gets a divorce attorney and then battles it out in the courts with petitions, hearings, mandated conferences, and maybe even a full-blown trial. This is a relatively costly, slow, and divisive process. 

Attorneys are trained to be adversarial and most divorce attorneys charge an hourly rate of $350 or higher. They are incentivized to spend more time working through the details of court filings, support, property division, and custody. and divorce settlement agreement. When you have two attorneys discussing the minutiae of your divorce and arguing in court, the couple may be paying well over $700 an hour! It’s no wonder that many litigated divorces cost $40,000 and sometimes significantly more.

What is a Divorce Mediator

Divorce mediation is the first of the constructive divorce processes you’ll want to consider. It’s expert-guided, relatively fast and inexpensive and it allows the couple to control their futures and privacy. Mediation is a process where both parties want to resolve their issues and come to an agreement together about custody and the parenting plan, child support, alimony, and property division. A mediator doesn’t make decisions but they assist through a variety of methods including education, financial analysis, conflict resolution, best practices, etc. 

Divorce mediation is a good choice for those who want a gentler divorce that will allow them to keep more of their money and dignity. The couple doesn’t have to be amicable, they just have to be willing to negotiate in good faith. One thing for sure, their long-term relationship will be much better if they can work through mediation rather than the courts. This is especially valuable for parents who will be interacting throughout their children’s lives but important for anyone’s future well-being and peace. 

A divorce mediator can be a lawyer, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®) or other appropriately trained individual. Be sure you understand the differences in your alternatives and which would be best suited for your case. The decision of choosing a divorce attorney or a divorce mediator is a personal one.

If you need some help figuring out which approach would be best for you, get in touch with TruNorth Divorce and ask for a Free Divorce Strategy Session to explore your options. They specialize in providing expert divorce mediation advice to individuals and couples considering divorce. They are certified divorce financial analysts and trained divorce coaches who specialize in helping divorcing individuals and couples get their best possible outcome.


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Do You Need a Divorce Lawyer to Mediate Your Divorce?

Now that you decided mediation is probably the right process for your divorce, should you start looking for a divorce lawyer who mediates? No, you don’t have to—your mediator does not have to be a divorce lawyer and as such may not even be the best fit for the job.

Mediator Qualities

A divorce mediator needs to be skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable in divorce negotiation, finance, and state laws and procedures. Other ideal qualities include being adaptable, patient, and persistent. None of these qualities requires a law degree nor are divorce lawyers necessarily trained in anything other than laws and procedures. Many lawyers, too, are adversarial by nature or because of their law-school training or courtroom experiences. Unfortunately, this may lead them to unwittingly foster a hostile environment, undermining the cooperative and problem-solving nature of mediation.

The best divorce mediators have been professionally trained in mediation, are fully neutral, know the issues and surrounding laws and procedures, and are also experts in complex financial matters surrounding the divorce. Many today are choosing a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®) to mediate their divorce, recognizing that a CDFA® has unique qualities and skills to develop optimal and creative settlements that address everyone’s best long-term interests.

Legal Documents and Attorney Review

Now, divorce does require legal documents and filings and you may want an attorney or other legal professional to do that for you. Once you have your signed Memorandum of Understanding from your mediator, you can easily create your own documents. This can be accomplished with many inexpensive online services or by just relying on the information and forms provided on county websites. Alternatively, TruNorth Divorce offers assisted and full-service divorce processing options–you never have to speak with a lawyer or step foot in a courthouse!

Some individuals or couples, even if they use a divorce mediator who is also a lawyer, will want to involve attorneys. This might be to have their own attorney(s) counsel them during the mediation process and/or have them review the Memorandum of Understanding and Settlement Agreement once the mediation has been completed. It’s always wise to take this extra step and I encourage my clients to do so. In my experience, though, most do not.

When Not to Mediate

We recognize, of course, that mediation is not the best choice for every divorce and that you may need to involve the court’s oversight (with or without a divorce lawyer). Mediation may not be the right path, for example, when there’s been or is the threat of violence in the relationship or when one of you is just not willing to take into account the other person’s interests.


If you’re seriously thinking mediation might be the best path for you and your spouse, take time to assess your needs and what skill-set, training, and qualities would best serve you. Read our free e-Book to learn about some steps you should be taking before you divorce. Talk to a few potential mediators and choose one that you and your spouse feel most comfortable with. You only get to do this divorce once and it could have long-term implications for your (and possibly your children’s) emotional and financial health.

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