Do I need an attorney just to go to mediation?

The simple answer is “No.” The smart answer is “Yes.”

I was recently posed with this question in the context of a divorced parent required by the Court to attend mediation to try to resolve a modification of the current orders from the Decree.

To begin with, you can legally represent yourself at mediation just like you can in court, in this scenario. The problem comes with the legal effect your actions will have throughout the process. A mediator’s goal is to get‎ the parties to agree, without real consideration of whether the deal for you is a good one or not. Hence, you may agree to a deal that may legally compromise you, without even knowing it.

At the end of the mediation session, you will likely be asked to sign a Mediated Settlement Agreement (“MSA”) to memorialize your agreement with the other party. You need to know that an MSA will be binding, setting your agreement in stone. Seeking an attorney after the signing of the MSA may be too late to save your rights or protect you from agreeing to terms against your best interest. I would recommend any party attending mediation be represented by an attorney.‎

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