The Difference Between Mediators and Attorney-Mediators

When faced with the prospect of getting divorced, deciding how to move ahead can be overwhelming and difficult. Choosing divorce mediation over traditional divorce through the courts can save you time and money by prioritizing open communication and collaboration to help you reach an amicable agreement. But even if you’ve decided to go with divorce mediation already, another choice comes down to whether you work with an attorney-mediator or a non-attorney mediator. 

This article will explore the nuances of divorce mediation, the roles played by mediators and attorney-mediators, and why you might consider an attorney-mediator for your divorce. But first, let’s go over what divorce mediation is and the role the mediator takes in facilitating the divorce.

What is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is an alternative to divorcing in court, where a neutral third party, the mediator, helps divorcing couples reach an agreement amicably. Unlike traditional divorce proceedings that often involve lengthy and contentious court battles, mediation focuses on collaboration and open communication. This approach not only saves time and reduces the emotional strain on both participants, but also gives them more control over the outcomes of their divorce.

What Does a Divorce Mediator Do?

The role of a divorce mediator is fundamentally that of a facilitator. Mediators guide discussions, ensure that each person is heard, and help manage any conflicts that arise during negotiations. Importantly, while mediators assist in reaching an agreement, they do not make decisions for the couple. Instead, they encourage the participants to come up with solutions that best meet their specific needs and interests. The process may involve several sessions, each designed to tackle different aspects of the divorce agreement, such as property division, child custody, and alimony.

The Difference Between Mediators and Attorney-Mediators

When selecting the mediator for your divorce, you have a choice between an attorney-mediator and a mediator. While both aim to facilitate a peaceful and fair negotiation process and will help you navigate your divorce, their qualifications and capabilities differ significantly.

Mediators are trained in the art of negotiation and conflict resolution. They come from various professional backgrounds and are not necessarily legal experts. Their primary role is to assist the participants in communicating effectively and finding mutually agreeable solutions.

Attorney-Mediators are licensed attorneys who have specialized training in mediation. In addition to their mediation skills, they bring a deep understanding of the law, which can be invaluable in navigating the complexities of divorce proceedings.

The Benefits of an Attorney-Mediator for Your Divorce

Choosing an attorney-mediator can provide numerous advantages over a non-attorney mediator, especially in complex situations where legal intricacies play a significant role.

Better Divorce Agreements and Outcomes

Attorney-mediators bring a level of foresight to drafting divorce agreements that is unparalleled in traditional mediation settings. They possess a comprehensive understanding of the legal framework surrounding family law, divorce proceedings, and the associated legal ramifications, enabling them to guide couples through the process with an informed perspective and ensure that all agreements comply with state and federal laws.

In a typical divorce scenario, numerous legal issues need to be addressed, from the division of property and assets to arrangements regarding child custody and support. Each of these areas is governed by specific laws that can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another. With deep knowledge of the law, an attorney-mediator is equipped to help couples make informed decisions during the mediation process. 

Another advantage of having an attorney-mediator is their ability to foresee and prevent potential legal pitfalls. Divorce agreements that seem fair and equitable at the negotiation table may later be found deficient in the eyes of the court, leading to costly and emotionally draining legal disputes. Attorney-mediators apply their legal knowledge to analyze each agreement in the context of current laws and judicial precedents, minimizing the risk of future challenges or the need for modifications to the divorce agreement.

Additionally, attorney-mediators aim to address potential future changes in circumstances, such as modifications in child custody arrangements or changes in financial status. By anticipating these issues and incorporating flexibility into the agreement, attorney-mediators help couples avoid the need for costly and stressful legal modifications later.

An Experienced Guide For the Divorce Process

Beyond facilitating open discussion and assisting participants in reaching agreements, attorney-mediators also educate couples  about the legal landscape of divorce, including the necessary paperwork, the implications of various decisions, and the potential outcomes of their case. By demystifying legal terms and procedures, they empower participants  to make informed decisions that align with their long-term interests. 

Through this understanding, divorcing couples can approach the negotiation table with confidence and a clear sense of what they need to achieve and what they might expect as outcomes. The attorney-mediator’s ability to educate, simplify, and support the participants not only ensures that legal standards are met but also enhances the overall mediation experience, making it less stressful and more effective.

Creative Problem Solving and Solutions

Every divorce is unique, and attorney-mediators excel in customizing solutions that address the specific circumstances and preferences of each couple. Whether it’s crafting parenting plans that accommodate unusual work schedules, dividing unique assets like stock awards and options, or, attorney-mediators can draw on their past experiences to offer practical and effective strategies.

During divorce mediation, impasses can often occur, especially if  couples have deeply entrenched positions. Attorney-mediators use creative strategies to break these deadlocks, such as exploring temporary agreements, using hypothetical scenarios to explore outcomes, or shifting focus to less contentious issues to build momentum and trust. These techniques can help reframe discussions and open up new avenues for negotiation, facilitating progress where it seemed unlikely.

Divorce mediation does not always follow a linear path. As circumstances change, new issues may emerge, requiring flexible and creative adjustments to the mediation approach. Attorney-mediators are skilled in adapting their strategies to accommodate such changes, ensuring that the mediation process remains dynamic and responsive to the evolving needs of both participants.

Experience with Complex Legal Issues

Attorney-mediators are particularly valuable in cases involving complex legal issues. Issues such as exploring the difference between the marital vs. non-marital property, handling debts, and understanding retirement assets are areas where legal expertise is crucial. While an attorney-mediator cannot provide legal, financial, or tax advice, they can explain these issues in plain language, helping participants understand any financial and legal implications. Their training and experience allow them to navigate the legal intricacies that can arise during divorce, providing peace of mind that all legal aspects are being handled competently.

Attorney-mediators often bring extensive knowledge from their practice in family law, having encountered a spectrum of divorce cases, from straightforward amicable separations to high-conflict situations involving significant assets or custody disputes. This varied experience allows them to adapt their approach to fit the specific needs and dynamics of each couple. 

In cases involving children, the legal knowledge of the attorney-mediator becomes even more impactful. Decisions regarding child custody must adhere to the legal standards that prioritize the best interests of the child. An attorney-mediator can guide parents through these considerations, helping them understand how courts typically make determinations about custody and how to structure a parenting plan that meets legal standards and works practically for the family.


In conclusion, the deep understanding of the legal system that an attorney-mediator brings to divorce mediation is not just about navigating the present complexities; it’s also about securing an agreement that adheres to legal standards, which can prevent future problems.. By choosing an attorney-mediator, couples ensure that their divorce agreement is not only crafted with practical considerations in mind but is also robust enough to withstand legal scrutiny. This peace of mind is invaluable during what is often one of the most challenging periods of a person’s life.

If you are going through a divorce in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, consider reaching out to NHDM for a consultation with an experienced attorney-mediator. Embrace a strategy that not only addresses your immediate needs but also has an eye toward the future, providing you with peace of mind.