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Review Counsel in Connecticut Divorce Mediation

What Is Review Counsel in a Connecticut Divorce Mediation?

Mediation keeps you in the driver’s seat and allows you to come up with a tailor-made solution that considers all members of the family – and, hopefully, will be the best possible solution under the circumstances.  Unlike a judge, who might make decisions for the parties, the mediator acts as a neutral guide. Your mediator will help you communicate your respective needs and concerns and assist you in reaching an agreement, but will not make decisions or provide legal advice to either you or your spouse.

Although mediators are frequently attorneys, in the mediator role they are a neutral third party and cannot give individual legal advice or comment on the fairness of the agreement.  This is why you should still hire an experienced mediation-friendly attorney to provide you with independent legal advice.  This independent attorney is called “review counsel” or “consulting counsel.”

The purpose of having independent review counsel is not to start conflict but to be an advocate focused on your best interests, needs, and concerns, a key component that will help ensure a fair and equitable outcome.

What Does Review Counsel Do?

  • Provides guidance at all stages of the divorce mediation process, as needed and requested.
  • Explains how the mediation process works, what topics to discuss, and shares basic information on the law and subjects, such as alimony, property division, or custody prior to mediation beginning.
  • Provides background support throughout the mediation process.  Although they don’t typically attend mediation sessions with you, review counsel can help you prepare for your upcoming mediation sessions, which often involves answering questions you preferred not to ask at a mediation session, and exploring different settlement options.
  • Assesses your situation and explains the law as it pertains to you in order to help you make informed decisions.
  • Offers advice on the fairness of the agreement you and your spouse reached and whether it aligns with your goals, and makes sure you understand exactly what you are signing.

When Should I Involve Review Counsel?

Before or at the Beginning of Mediation

It’s beneficial to include a lawyer before your mediation begins or in the initial stages, that way your review counsel will be able to explain what the norms are in Connecticut so that you can be well prepared for mediation. You will talk about your goals, hopes, fears, and concerns, so that your review counsel can help you figure out which decisions need to be made immediately.  Your lawyer can also clarify questions, give you feedback between mediation sessions, and help you evaluate your options to make informed decisions.

To Review Your Final Mediation Agreement

Minimally you should involve review counsel in the final stage of mediation so that he or she can review the divorce agreement drafted by your mediator.  Your review counsel will “translate” the legal language of your agreement into plain language so that you know exactly what you are signing before you sign it.  Your review counsel will also be able to flag whether your agreement is missing any important points. Your review counsel may ask hard questions that you may not have considered while mediating.  Importantly, your counsel can also advise you about how your agreement may vary from the law and whether this agreement meets your goals.  Your divorce agreement is an important document, and will affect your life for years to come.  You should take the time to go over it in detail and understand every word of it.

How Do I Find the Right Connecticut Attorney To Serve As My Divorce Mediation Review Counsel?

  • Your review counsel should focus their practice on Connecticut divorce and family law.  There isn’t a formula for either alimony or property division in Connecticut.  You will have both a lot to consider and a lot of options and, as your guide, your review counsel should be well-versed in the current status of matrimonial and family law in Connecticut.
  • Your consulting or reviewing counsel should be mediation-friendly.  Often, your attorney also serves as a mediator or is on a legal team with lawyers who mediate, and understands the mediation process and what you want to accomplish. If you choose a lawyer who doesn’t understand mediation, they might be litigious and want to fight instead of support you in reaching resolutions.
  • Your mediator may be able to recommend good and experienced attorneys to serve as review counsel for you and your spouse.

Why Should I Use Review Counsel?

Your mediator may be excellent at helping you talk through your family’s concerns and fears and drawing up a peaceful agreement for your divorce.  Your mediator may be able to give you some basic, relevant information about divorce laws.  However, even if your mediator is a lawyer, a mediator must remain neutral, and thus cannot give you legal advice.

While mediation is meant to be neutral and cooperative, it’s still important to have an advocate focused on your best interests, goals, needs, and concerns.  Your attorney is there to assess your situation explain the law as it pertains to you, answer questions, give suggestions, guide you through, and help you make informed decisions.  Your review counsel helps ensure that your divorce agreement is well-informed, fair and enforceable, accurately reflects what you are your spouse agreed to, and you understand it — saving you time, frustration, and money in the years to come.

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The attorneys at Freed Marcroft guide select clients through the legal aspects of divorce while remaining mindful of their overall wellness, including as mediators and mediation review counsel.  To discuss our helping with your situation, contact us either here or by phone at 860-560-8160.

 

 

Written by Meghan Freed