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Keep your mediation confidential, choose the right mediator

In some states, divorce proceedings are a matter of public record. New York, where all divorce proceedings are sealed, is not one of them. Many people in these other states turn to mediation, which can offer more confidentiality than traditional divorce proceedings. In New York, however, the opposite is true. There is no duty of confidentiality in mediation. 

As a matter of caution, knowing how the state handles confidentiality in mediation is only part of navigating the process successfully. The other part is finding a mediator who knows the law, can explain it to you, will guide you through the process and will also keep things confidential even if the law does not require it.

A look at New York confidentiality rules

When choosing mediation over divorce in New York, it's important to know that non-attorney-mediators have no duty of confidentiality. While this doesn't necessarily mean that a non-attorney-mediator will share everything that happens in mediation with anyone who will listen, the law doesn't actively prevent non-attorney-mediators from doing so.

Indeed, there are no rules governing mediators in our state at all, including licensing or oversight, which may leave you wondering if the non-attorney-mediator you have chosen is experienced enough to properly handle your dissolution.

Turning to an attorney-mediator instead

An attorney-mediator can ensure you understand the law because they have the education and expertise to explain things better than a non-attorney-mediator can. They can also share their real-life experiences working in the court system to better define your expectations.

Even though there are no statutory guidelines or rules requiring mediators to offer you a confidentiality agreement before beginning services, some attorney-mediators do offer this. A confidentiality agreement with your attorney-mediator ensures the same privacy you would expect if you were working on any other legal matter with a lawyer.

Further privacy is afforded when working with an attorney-mediator, who, as a lawyer, is also able to prepare divorce documents and file them with the court. These documents, which are then sealed, cannot be viewed by the public. Non-attorney-mediators are not legally allowed to prepare documents such as separation agreements or divorce papers because they are not lawyers.

Choosing the right way through mediation

If you want to end your marriage through mediation rather than traditional divorce proceedings, you must consider the credentials of your mediator. Much like you wouldn't go to your auto mechanic for open heart surgery, you shouldn't entrust just anyone with the complex and life-altering process of divorce. An attorney-mediator affords you the confidence that they will get the job done right.

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