Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Divorce Agreement and Lawyers

The Agreement

Once the parties have reached an agreement on most or all of the issues in their divorce, I will draft a proposed agreement. Depending on the complexity of the agreement and the level of conflict, there may be some revisions of the agreement at subsequent meetings. When there is a complete agreement I will draft a final divorce agreement. Interestingly and somewhat confusingly, this final agreement is called a "Separation Agreement".

In Massachusetts, the "Separation Agreement" is the divorce agreement. Once the parties have agreed on the terms of the agreement, they will file this agreement with the court and ask the court to have the agreement incorporated into the judgment of the court.  Clients are strongly encouraged to have the agreement reviewed by independent attorneys for each of them before signing the agreement.

Even though many mediation participants come to mediation with the intention of not seeing an attorney, I strongly encourage each client to do so. As mediator I do not provide the participants with legal advice, although, I do provide plenty of legal information. A consulting lawyer will be able to review their proposed agreement and advise them about their individual rights and whether in that lawyer's opinion the agreement is fair or not. After consulting with a lawyer, a client may come back to mediation and discuss proposed changes. While difficult for the other party, ultimately, this is good for the process. With information from his or her attorney, parties have the information they need to  make an informed decision.