Role of the Review Attorney in Mediation

One question that is often asked when explaining the Mediation Process is “Why do I need to hire a Review Attorney?” 

In many ways, this is a loaded question—in that it may indicate a general undermining of the mediation process—but it also harkens back to some parties’ concern over costs. 

As a practical matter, the Review Attorney will often also be engaged to facilitate obtaining the Judgment of Divorce and completing the process of filing a Domestic Relations Orders that are necessary to divide retirement accounts.  Therefore, they serve a crucial role in helping the parties manage the judicial process efficiently, as even when you reach an amicable resolution you need to go to Court to “finish” the divorce.

More importantly, however, the Review Attorney is retained to provide you with Legal Advice.  Remembering that the Mediator is a neutral—they cannot provide you legal advice during the mediation process.  For instance, while they can generally provide information on the law governing alimony, they cannot advise you on your rights and obligations based on the specific aspects of your case. 

A simple example of this may be in relation to inherited funds.  While a mediator can explain the law in regards to inherited funds be exempt from equitable distribution absent ancillary proof to the contrary, the mediator will not be able to explain one parties’ right to have the income generated from those assets included in the alimony analysis.

In the simplest definition, the Review Attorney’s purpose is to ensure that the parties understood what they were agreeing to, that the drafted agreement reflects the parties’ understanding and that the parties were entering into the agreement with full knowledge of their rights and obligations under the law. 

As such, they are a crucial part of the mediation process in that they provide security in knowing that the process will be fair and will generate reasonable results for both parties.

To be clear—you are not REQUIRED to hire a Review Attorney after completing the mediation process—but it is generally encouraged to avoid the potential for having the Agreement invalidated at a later date, making it well worth the expense.

David Cardamone