This is a question often asked by people who are thinking of a divorce. Mediation is a wonderful tool that can save money and minimize the conflict that is inevitably involved in getting a divorce. However, going to mediation without understanding your legal rights first can be very dangerous. A competent mediator will not give either person legal advice about his or her rights. A mediator cannot tell you if a settlement is a good idea for you. So before you go to mediation, you should see a lawyer first, so that you understand what your rights are, and what you might be giving up. Consulting a lawyer does not mean you have to involve the lawyer in the mediation, nor does it mean you will end up in court. It simply means that you will go to mediation with your eyes open.
The kinds of things a lawyer can help you understand before mediation include: What property is considered marital property that the court will divide? What is the likelihood of getting, or being ordered to pay, alimony? How likely is it that a court would order joint custody of the children? What does the law say about child support? If you do not know the answers to these questions, you could end up with a divorce agreement that either gives away things you did not even know you could ask for, or leave problems unresolved that will return to bother you later.
It is also very important that you have all the documents you need before you go to mediation. If you are not sure what property or debts you have, you will not be able to get a good agreement. You should not simply rely on your spouse to tell you what you need to know. Because you are getting divorced, each person has goals and desires that are not necessarily the other spouse’s goals and desires. After all, if you agreed on everything, you probably would not be divorcing.