If the word divorce conjures up a movie-made image of a lengthy courtroom battle, think again. Not every split is messy or includes weeks spent in the courts. Some couples use mediation as a way to amicably end a marriage and resolve child custody issues.

Family mediation is a cost-effective alternative to courtroom proceedings that often allows both parties to maintain a positive relationship, according to the Mediation Association of Colorado. If you’re considering this legal process, understanding the differences between the mediator and the divorce lawyer can help you to decide if mediation is for you.

1. Does a mediator replace an attorney? No, a mediator is not a low-cost replacement for a divorce lawyer. Although a mediator may have gone to law school and passed the bar, that isn’t always a requirement. The mediator’s job doesn’t include providing legal advice, notes the Ohio State Bar Association.

2. Is a lawyer still necessary? Yes, you may still need or want to hire a family lawyer. It’s likely that you’ll need an attorney in addition to a mediator. The lawyer will give you guidance on legal matters, explain the word of the law to you and help to answer legal questions. The mediator will not offer these services.

3. Does the mediator write the final divorce documents? Not usually. In most cases the mediation serves to create a mutually agreeable set of circumstances. For example, you may work out a child custody plan during mediation. After you come to an agreement, the divorce lawyer will then write it into a decree for the court to approve. This doesn’t mean that you have to go into court and rehash the work that you’ve already done in mediation. The court must approve the agreement to make it legal and binding.

4. Are lawyers ever present during mediations? In some cases, yes. If you feel that you need an attorney as well, you may have your lawyer present during mediation. This isn’t the same as going into court with your attorney. Instead of presenting your case, your lawyer may explain terms of concepts that you may not understand.

The collaborative effort that mediation requires often results in settlements that are more successful than court-chosen agreements, according to the American Bar Association. Choosing this process requires you to work with your soon-to-be ex and come to a mutually agreeable decision. Even though the mediator will guide you through the mediation portion of the divorce, you will still need a divorce lawyer. The divorce attorney will provide you with legal definitions and guidance that the mediator will not.