In Utah, courts require couples to attempt to resolve contested legal disputes in mediation before going forward with a divorce. However, not all residents participating in the divorce mediation process automatically understand what the purpose of the mediation is. It’s for this reason that is generally a good idea to have an attorney accompany the party to a divorce when the divorce mediation takes place.
Though couples will have a large number of questions to ask of the mediator taken care of their individual case, there are simply going to be particular queries the mediator will not know how to address. The mediator is there to bring the parties together to resolve legal issues such as alimony, child support and visitation matters, but the mediator is not a personal representative for either of the parties and cannot speak to a party’s personal interests.
Mediators are also uncomfortable in answering questions as to whether divorce is the correct option for the individual parties. This is in part that they will only have a limited amount of contact with the party to begin with and it’s not possible for the mediator to know every personal circumstance as to why the couple is seeking a divorce.
The advantage of retaining an attorney is that any conversations you have with that person are confidential. There may be issues that a party would be reluctant to raise in front of a mediator because such issues may adversely affect the mediator’s opinion concerning various marital issues.
Finally, when signing a mediation agreement, it is always good to have the perspective of an attorney that, because of past experience, understands the long term consequences of agreeing to certain terms.
Source: Huffington Post, “Marriage Counselor or Mediator?” by Diane L. Danois, J.D., May 2, 2013