Consulting and Review Attorneys
Parties to divorce mediation may consult with an attorney at any time before, during or after agreement has been reached. An attorney who becomes involved before or during the mediation process is a “consulting” attorney. Their role is to advise about rights and obligations under the law and to prepare their clients for specific issues that will be discussed in mediation. An attorney who becomes involved after agreement has been reached is a “review” attorney. Their role is to advise about the proposed terms of agreement and to confirm that her clients are fully informed. Of course, one attorney can perform both roles.
Since the goal in mediation is to reach an agreement that is fair and livable for both parties, an important question when selecting a consulting or review attorney is whether he or she is “mediation friendly.” A mediation friendly attorney respects that people choose mediation in order to avoid the enormous financial and emotional strain of an adversarial separation or divorce. A mediation friendly attorney does not focus on a win what you can mentality but rather gives professional advice about the range of likely outcomes under the law.
A consulting attorney can also be very helpful if there is an impasse in mediation. For example, where the parties cannot agree on how to divide a particular asset, a consulting attorney can confirm that proposals being made in mediation are reasonable or they may suggest alternatives that could help their client move forward. A consulting attorney can provide an additional level of security that her client is making well-informed decisions based on reason, not emotion.
It is most common, however, for couples in divorce mediation to seek out the assistance of a review attorney after agreement on the issues has been reached. A review attorney may draft the agreement, provide fresh perspective when reviewing the terms of the agreement, point out potential concerns and make certain her client fully understands all provisions.
Consulting and review attorneys generally work on a defined and hourly basis. Consulting work can be limited to one particular issue or it can continue throughout the mediation process. Review work generally takes 3-6 hours depending on the complexity of the agreement.