Post Litigaton Mediation, Without a Lawyer?

A recent phone call from potential client changed my answer to the question above.

She stated:

1. Her child’s father blew off mediation during their divorce;

2. He has not been following the court ordered parenting plan;

3. He treats her rudely and profanely and causes constant tension;

4. Their parenting plan was cobbled together, “one size fits all”, during a 30 minute final hearing.

5. Neither party had a lawyer. The court did the order.

I decided to tailor a deal just for her.

1. I offered to interview her and guide guide her in gathering the facts to establish her case either at a mediation or trial.

2. If she just wanted an hour to outline the rules, prepare the notice of the mediation, and get some tips on which mediator to use and how to prepare, I would charge just $200.

3. But I suggested an initial $550 retainer, and $500 within thirty days (that’s about how long it takes to schedule the mediation).

4. For that sum, I would do up to $1550 at my normal rate of $200/hour and reduce my fee by 25%, to $150/hour for anything above the $1550.

5. For this we would start to train her abusive ex-husband, hammer out a new parenting plan if possible, and set him up to deal with an angry court if he blew off mediation again.

6. I would also seek court approval of the mediated agreement or file a contempt petition. It was a great deal, so she made an appointment.

7. An hour later she called back to say, “I have decided to proceed with mediation on my own.” I will never know if she couldn’t get the money or was talked out of it. But, she was in her mess because she tried to do it herself! Why she called me, to get advice that she promptly ignored, I do not know.

I admit that most mediators now have the experience to do a decent job; the better ones will type up a decent agreement and mail it to the court. But the mediator cannot represent either party, and what happens when the other side begins to fly off course again?

I thought back to the times I told my former clients that they could go to mediation without me, after the entry of their final order.

Now I believe, at the very minimum, that they should return for at least that one hour consultation. Most of the time, the lawyer can double or triple the chance of success. And, the other side knows that with a good lawyer, the client can litigate if necessary.

Remember, acting as if you are almost eager for a trial reduces the chance that you will need one.

So, my advice now is CALL YOUR LAWYER, OR CALL A LAWYER. I suggest one who has an informative, helpful, blog and plenty of experience!

This post was written by Burton Hunter

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