Lauren Fields Sept. 22, 2020

The single biggest misunderstanding or misconception is that people think that mediation versus hiring a lawyer are two completely separate avenues to be taking to wrap up a marriage, a child custody matter or paternity action for that matter. Most of the time, when it comes to an asset and debt distribution, or if there is a dispute about spousal maintenance, child support, valuing a business or a pension, the best way to do that is through mediation, but mediation where a party is represented by counsel. It is not an either/or proposition. Many times people contact me and say, “My wife or my husband just wants to go through mediation.” They think that it means without a lawyer representing them. It is not the way to be going through mediation, it just is not.

There are a very few number of times where I have had somebody come in to my office and say, “My husband and I, or my wife and I, are on the same page, we want a divorce. We know how we want things split up, we know how we want the child custody arrangements to look. Can you just basically do the paperwork?” First of all, I cannot represent both sides in a divorce, I can only represent one. What I will do in that case is I will meet with the other side who was not represented, make clear that I am representing the party I am representing, the first person who contacted me and ethically when that person who is not represented asks me legal questions, per the rules of ethics, the only thing I am allowed to say in response is that they need to consult with a lawyer. I cannot give that party legal advice.

With that being the case, it is pretty difficult although I have done this before to help someone with a divorce and from beginning to end representing only one party and with the parties agreeing to everything and getting that incorporated into a decree of divorce. I am well aware that there are mediators out there who do that, they make it clear to both parties that they are representing neither and they basically just kind of give their advice and thoughts as to what needs to be done to get a divorce decree on file. I do not think that it is a bad route to go but I think that that is a rare case.

Is There A Demographic For Divorce Cases? Do Men And Women Go Through Divorce Differently?

If I look at my case list, I am probably right down the middle, husbands and wives. As far as demographics go, I absolutely handle multi-million dollar assets and debt distributions of marital estates with business owners here in the Kansas City area. But if a couple that was just starting out and only married for two or three years, we represent them as well. So, we do not focus on nor do we tend to just attract certain types of individuals as our clients are maybe getting a divorce, or in the middle of a paternity and child custody situation.

As far as women and men viewing divorce differently, I have had both men and women be over the top, emotional just inconsolable in some circumstances. I have also had men and women who approach it frankly the way the court approaches it like a business type relationship that is dissolving. There are assets and debts that need to be fairly and equitably divided between the parties and that is the way the client sees it. I cannot tell you that there is any difference between men and women as far as their attitude. Every situation is different.

Information About The Mediation Process In Kansas

There are two different types of mediations. If you are going through a divorce with children, a paternity action or maybe even a post-divorce child custody action, the courts in Kansas are going to require, and in Missouri for that matter, command you to sit through a mediation focused only on child custody matters. Nine out of ten times, those are going to be attended only by the parties; the lawyers will not also be attending. That is the child custody aspect of it. The courts do not want that in anyway intermingled with any other issue in the divorce, child support, spousal maintenance, asset distribution, debt distribution, who gets the marital residence, etc.

They want that handled completely separate for obvious reasons. If you are having to go to mediation though for asset and debt distribution, spousal maintenance that, nine out of ten times, in my view, should be attended by the parties with lawyers so that everybody is getting a fair shake. If you are going in without a lawyer and the other side has one, I can almost assure you that what comes out of there is not going to be as good as what you would have gotten if you were represented by counsel.