In a new series of that will coincide with Family Mediation week we’re giving some top tips.  We really do know that those going through a separation struggle to process lots of information when they are feeling emotional and so breaking things down to a simple top 5 tips can be helpful.

In this blog we’re sharing our top 5 tips for finding a lawyer or mediator.

1. Start by thinking about what you want from a lawyer or mediator. Is their gender important to you?  Are there qualities you want them to have?  How far are you willing to travel to them?  If you start by giving some thought to what you think would be helpful your more likely to know when you have found someone who fits the bill.

2. Understand the difference!  A lawyer will only work with you and will give you the advice of the best outcome for you taking into account the information you give them. They can offer you advice, write letters to your ex partner (or their lawyer) on your behalf, apply to court for you and represent you at court or in an arbitration (or they may arrange a barrister to do this for you).  They can also prepare documents setting out what you have agreed that can be lodged with the court as part of your divorce proceedings (or different documents if you’re not getting divorced at the current time).

A family mediator will work with both of you and they are impartial so they promote both your interests equally.  They can give you lots of information about things to think about, or about processes or steps you might need to take, but they won’t be able to advise either of you.  A mediator brings you both together and helps keep your discussions constructive, respectful and focused on the point in hand.  They can help you break down big issues into manageable steps.  They can write up what you want to put in place but can’t prepare the binding documents to legally formalise things (but having a mediator’s documents can make it a lot easier for a lawyer to prepare the binding documents for you).

3. As a starting point you can ask any friends who have gone through a separation for a recommendation. Or you can find lawyers and mediators through Resolution’s websiteResolution is an organisation that represents lawyers and mediators and has a code of conduct that promotes helping separating couples to deal with matters amicably and with the needs of their children at the time of the agenda.  You can also find a mediator local to you (there are a number of different mediator organisations so not all mediators are Resolution members) via the Family Mediation Council search facility.

4. Once you have done an online search and asked friends you should have a short list of possible names. Have a look at the lawyers or mediators online so you can get a feel for their approach.  Most firms have profiles but many of the professionals may also have social media accounts on Linkedin or Twitter (or other platforms) and this may help you decide if they fit with your original idea of what you want from a lawyer or a mediator.

5. Make contact. You don’t have to commit to anything in that first contact.  You can simply find out some initial information about costs, processes and timescales for appointments via phone or email.  Again this should also help you to learn more about the professional you’re thinking of working with and get a feel for whether you feel you can work together.  It can be a very personal relationship having to explain details of your relationship breakdown to someone you don’t know and it’s important that you feel comfortable with the lawyer or mediator you want to instruct.  If after an initial meeting you feel really uncomfortable then talk to the professional about this.  If you really feel it can’t work then begin the process with another professional on your list.  Better to cut your losses than to invest time and money with the wrong person.

If you’d like more guidance on any aspect of separation then you can visit our online shop.

Other blogs you may find useful:

A simple way to think about co-parenting

Communication Problems: Being at different stages in the recovery process

If you’d liketips and support to help you manage your post separation arrangements as constructively and amicably as possible, then why not sign up to our free mailing list and get them direct to your inbox?  You’ll get loads of tips along the way and we tend to only send an email a couple of times a month.

We also have a separate list for for professionals working with separating couples.  This includes resources for professionals to share with their clients and details of our forthcoming training workshops and networking events.

If you’re a fan of social media then why not follow us there to get more of the things we share.  If you feel able to share our posts so we can help more people then we’d be really grateful.  You can find us on Facebook, Twitter,Youtube or Pinterest.  You can also find Louisa Whitney on Linkedin or Instagram.