Divorce can be complicated and emotionally charged transition, not to mention an expensive one. Facing a long battle in court and rising legal fees, many people are turning to a more cost-effective and creative approach to ending a marriage, known as divorce mediation.

In divorce mediation, you and your spouse meet with a neutral third party, known as a mediator. This person helps guide the problem-solving process in a way that is open, honest, and fact-focused. Mediation can help parties control their own fate on issues such as child custody, distribution of property, child support, and other financial matters, so that a judge doesn’t have to be the final decision maker.

What exactly does a mediator do?

During meetings, a mediator serves several purposes. He or she will begin by explaining the process of mediation, the rules of communication, and what to expect. The mediator models collaborative, non-aggressive and non-confrontational communication and helps all parties stay focused on the topic at hand. He or she can also help both parties stay objective about the facts of the divorce and also consider each other’s perspectives. He or she also may help generate creative solutions for disagreements that seem impossible to surmount.  

A mediator can also help you build the needed relationship skills for your post-divorce contact. If you have children, the healthy communication skills you have learned and practiced in mediation can help parenting become more manageable and collaborative. 

What’s the difference between a lawyer and a mediator?

A lawyer’s job is to represent his or her individual client and get the best possible outcome for them. They are responsible for providing legal advice and helping prepare paperwork that must be filed in court. A mediator serves as a neutral third party whose goal is to help both people reach the necessary agreements needed to divorce. Mediators do not have to be lawyers, and they are often mental health professionals, such as a licensed counselor. While lawyers can become accredited mediators, they cannot act as lawyers during the process, meaning they can’t give advice or side with either party.

What are the benefits of mediation?

While there are numerous benefits to mediation depending on the details of the divorce, mediation is

  • Respectful of the confidentiality of all parties
  • Less expensive
  • Faster than a battle in court
  • A more cooperative process
  • Focused on building relationship skills

How can I prepare for the mediation process?

Divorce awakens many emotions, both good and bad. Both parties must agree to set aside their anger, at least for the mediation process, so that they can reach a solution rather than having a court decide it for them. You don’t have pretend that divorce isn’t difficult, but you do have to acknowledge that a calm, focused, and creative process is ultimately what’s best for everyone involved.

Divorce Mediation also works better when you respect the process. It’s important not to discuss issues outside of mediation with your spouse or other people. You and your spouse can decide how frequently you want to meet with a mediator, as there is no set number of meetings. Many people can complete the process within fewer than ten sessions, or even five, but the process largely depends on the nature of the issues and the parties’ willingness to engage in problem-solving and open communication.

If you’re not sure whether to pursue mediation, think about where your priorities lie. Are you focused on winning? If so, even winning in court is more likely to leave you feeling exhausted rather than victorious. Also, any future animosity ignited between you and your spouse inevitably must be dealt with in the future. Mediation is a conscious choice not to make divorce about winning, but rather about making smart and long-lasting agreements where everyone benefits, including your children. Your marriage might not have succeeded, but that doesn’t mean divorce can’t be an opportunity for your family to build a sturdier and more creative path towards the future.   

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