Mediation: Why You Still Need a Lawyer

We reached an agreement at mediation. Why do I need a lawyer?

four way meeting.jpg

A popular alternative to going to court for divorcing couples is mediation.  This is a dispute resolution option where the parties hire a neutral person to facilitate a conversation between them, with the goal of reaching an agreement.  If you reach an agreement in mediation, you don’t need a lawyer to negotiate for you, but you still need to hire a lawyer.

Your spouse might tell you a lawyer will only cause conflict and cost money.  Your mediator likely already provided you with the legal information you need to reach an agreement. So why do you need to hire a lawyer when you’re not fighting? 

What can a mediator do?

A mediator can only provide you with legal information.  They should have training in family law, and they may even be a lawyer, but they cannot act as a lawyer when they are mediating.

Your mediator is a neutral, independent third party who facilitates a conversation between you and your spouse.  They will help you identify issues, gather information, and come to an agreement.  If there is child support or spousal support involved, they might do calculations for you.  They might even write your agreement.

Read more: Finding and selecting a mediator

At this point, it might sound like a lawyer isn’t necessary.  Read on to find out why you should still call a lawyer.

A lawyer plays an important role that your mediator cannot. 

Your lawyer will provide you with legal advice, which is not the same as legal information.  The Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta has a great summary of legal advice versus information, which you can find here.  It includes examples such as:

  • Information is what words mean; advice is how the law will apply to your specific case
  • Information is what legal steps are involved in court; advice is what you should do at each step
  • Information is what explaining child support is; advice is telling you how to argue for more or less support
  • Information is providing blank court forms; advice is telling you what to put in the form

Your lawyer will review your Agreement with you and explain what each section means and whether you might get a different (better or worse) outcome if you went to court, and whether you should consider asking for any changes to your agreement based on the law.  This includes adding things that your mediator might not have thought of, or that you didn't think you needed.

Your lawyer will be an advocate for you.  This means they will look out for what is best for you.  In this role, they can help you figure out if the agreement is a “good deal” and also act as a “gut check”. They might ask hard questions that the mediator did not bring up, and challenge you to think about whether the agreement really meets your goals.

If any changes need to be made to your agreement, your lawyer can negotiate on your behalf if you wish.  You might also decide to go back to mediation to discuss the changes.

If you are attending mediation, we offer flat rate options for legal fees.  Book a free phone call today to learn more about how we can help.