I often get asked, “How does a lawyer differ from a mediator?” The simple answer is that a lawyer is your advocate on your side while a mediator remains neutral and doesn’t take either the husband’s or wife’s side. But the issue can get confusing because there are attorneys who practice both litigation and mediation (but not for the same client). Still, once you take a side (lawyer) you cannot untake a side and become neutral (mediator) or vice versa.
A lawyer is an advocate who can advise you on the law, develop a strategy to get you what you want, and discuss likely outcomes for the situation. A mediator, no matter what his or her background, acts as an impartial facilitator and does not take sides. If a legal issue comes up, a mediator cannot switch to his/her lawyer hat and suddenly be a lawyer and give legal advice. Even if your mediator is a lawyer who knows the law and would be capable of being your legal advocate, she cannot be both lawyer and mediator because a single person cannot be an advocate for two opposing sides. Just like tax questions should be referred to your accountant and house appraisal questions to your real estate agent, legal advice must come from your attorney. An upstanding mediator does not pretend to be all things to all people and try to switch roles. Instead, a good mediator will make referrals as needed; to make sure you are getting the best professional assistance for all of your particular needs.
A mediator’s job is to help the husband and wife reach fair and equitable agreements about their assets and liabilities, develop a realistic parenting framework, and make plans for the future for alimony and child support. In order to remain neutral, the mediator does not back one side or the other -- the husband and wife make the important decisions. The mediator’s only job is to move the process forward in a fair way. At Westfield Mediation, LLC, we use our unique skills to focus solely on mediation, so our clients can feel comfortable with the process and make progress towards a final fair divorce settlement.