What is Review Counsel, and do I need one

Jeremy and Christine have just finished their mediation session with their mediator.  A week later they meet with their mediator to go over their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).  This is the document that contains all of their agreements, and the document that will be the basis of the separation agreement that they will present to the court.  After going over the document their mediator recommends that they have the MOU reviewed by Review Counsel.  

The difference between the MOU and the separation agreement is that even though the separation agreement contains essentially the same information found in the MOU, the separation agreement is a legal document that should be drafted, and reviewed by an attorney. 

Review Counsel are attorneys specializing in family and divorce law who performs two important functions for couples in divorce mediation.  

Review counsel offers many benefits to mediating couples, and is essential in finalizing the separation agreement.  

  1. Review Counsel take the information from the MOU and draft the Separation Agreement, the legal document that will be presented to the court to finalize the divorce.  
  2. Review Counsel ensure that the agreement is drafted and presented in a manner that is acceptable to the court , and they also insure that the agreement meets legal standards and customs of the court that will hear the agreement.  They also can point out any issues in the agreement that the parties have come up with that may not be acceptable to the court, or circumstances that the parties did not consider.   

Many divorce mediators are not licensed attorneys, so they cannot provide the legal expertise that is needed to draft and review a separation agreement. 

So you will find that mediators will recommend that the final agreement be reviewed by review counsel to ensure that the document meets standards and protects each parties rights.  

To remain impartial mediators rarely refer or recommend a specific attorney to be review counsel, leaving it to the couple to find their own review counsel.

The couple can look for a review attorney together, but its best for each spouse to have their own review counsel.  The amount of time and cost to review the agreement will depend on the complexity of the agreement.  

The more complex, the more time needed and the greater the cost, but generally review counsel can complete their review within a few days, and at a cost of a few hours at the attorneys hourly rate.  Some attorneys even charge a flat fee.   

Remember Jeremy and Christine?  Well, they didn't take their mediator’s advise and presented an agreement, that was not accepted by the court and needed to be re-drafted.  This could have been avoided if they had it reviewed by their own review counsel.  

You have worked on reaching these agreements for weeks, spending time and money.  Why not spend a little bit more time and a little bit more money for the peace of mind review counsel can offer. 

As an attorney specializing in family law, I am familiar with the requirements of separation agreements submitted throughout courts in this state.  

Call us now for the peace of mind that your separation agreement will be done right.