Mediation is one of the most frequently used methods of negotiating a divorce settlement. In divorce mediation, you and your spouse—or, in some cases, the two of you and your respective lawyers—hire a neutral third party, called a mediator, to meet with you in an effort to discuss and resolve the issues in your divorce. The mediator doesn’t make decisions for you, but serves as a facilitator to help you and your spouse figure out what’s best.
Anyone going through a divorce should consider mediation, which can work for almost all couples and has a long list of benefits.
- Mediation is much less expensive than a court trial or a series of hearings.
- Most mediations end in a settlement of all of the issues in your divorce.
- Mediation is confidential, with no public record of what goes on in your sessions.
- Mediation allows you to arrive at a resolution based on your own ideas of what is fair in your situation, rather than having a solution imposed upon you based on rigid and impersonal legal principles.
- You can still have a lawyer give you legal advice if you wish.
- You and your spouse — not the court — can control the process.
- The mediation process can improve communication between you and your spouse, helping you avoid future conflicts.
While mediation is absolutely worth trying for most couples, not every couple belongs in mediation. For example, if there is domestic violence in your relationship, you should consider carefully before you agree to participate—but don’t it out of hand. Some people who have experienced abuse in their marriages find it empowering to meet on the level playing field of a mediation session; others find there’s too great a chance of replicating the dynamics of the marriage and choose to have a lawyer do their negotiating for them. Also, because the mediator can’t order either of you to do anything, a person who wants to delay the proceedings or avoid paying support can abuse the process by agreeing to mediation and then stalling the process. If you need decisions about support or other issues made early in your divorce, you may need to go to court. This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to use mediation at a later point to resolve the rest of the issues in your divorce, though.
All that’s required to make a divorce mediation successful is for both people to show up willing to negotiate and open to compromise. Don’t reject mediation just because you and your spouse see a particular issue very differently—in other words, don’t give up before you’ve begun. Mediation is a powerful process and many cases that seem impossible to resolve at the beginning end up in a settlement if everyone is committed to the process.