In the United States, 40 – 50 percent of all first marriages end in divorce or separation. Sixty percent of second marriages end in divorce and a whopping 73 percent of third marriages end that way. You may be asking yourself, “do all of these divorces get resolved in a court of law?” The answer is no. In fact, many divorcing couples successfully resolve contentious issues and obtain a legally valid divorce outside of the courtroom through mediation.
Overview of Mediation
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution where parties, in this instance a divorcing couple, agree to try and resolve their differences rather than going through the lengthy and expensive process of divorce litigation. Most mediations involve the parties and a neutral third party (i.e. the mediator) who will work to try and reach a mutual agreement between the parties. In many cases, the parties also get advice from attorneys who represent them individually.
Why Mediation Works
There are a whole host of reasons why mediation is effective and should be considered if you are going through a divorce right now. Mediation for a divorce is effective because the objective is to privately create a divorce settlement that brings security and peace of mind back to your family. The mediation process enables you to focus on key issues and reaching fair solutions. Below is a list of specific reasons why mediation has proven to be an effective form of dispute resolution.
Mediation Benefit –Fostering a Safe and Respectful Environment Where Issues Can Be Resolved
During mediation, a mediator can help you and your spouse stay focused on key issues rather than dwelling on immaterial matters that serve only to create tension and discord. A mediator can also assist you in verbalizing your side of the story in a way that clarifies the points that you are hoping to make. This helps ensure you get your message delivered to your spouse as you intended.
This laser focus on problem solving also creates an environment where tempers are kept in check. A mediator can help keep the peace by reframing and paraphrasing key issues in a neutral manner that is understandable to both parties and does not initiate discord and argument.
Mediation Benefit – Engendering Respect and Communication for Effective Long-Term Co-Parenting
A successful mediation tends to clear the path for divorcing parents to develop lines of communication and work together as a co-parenting team. This is absolutely critical for a divorcing couple with children because you will need to be able to communicate with one another for the foreseeable future to help raise your children.
Mediation Benefit – Keeping Your Divorce Proceedings Private
One of the most attractive benefits of mediation is the fact that the proceedings are kept between you and your spouse. By law, divorce mediation proceedings are private. This means there are legal protections in place to respect and honor the confidentiality of divorce mediations, unlike a divorce proceeding that takes place in a public courtroom. Basically, mediation enables you to stay out of the courtroom where you would need to air your “dirty laundry” for all to see.
The private nature of a mediation helps create a safe and secure environment for you and your spouse to address particularly sensitive issues. Nothing you say may be used against you later. Should your case ever wind up in the courts, nothing you say in divorce mediation can ever be brought out in those proceedings. However, what is agreed to in your Marital Settlement Agreement becomes part of the court record and is not, therefore, protected by the divorce mediation’s cloak of confidentiality.
Mediation Benefit – You Maintain Control
Mediation is basically a form of “assisted negotiation.” The mediator will provide assistance to you by helping facilitate negotiations, but at the end of the day, you and your spouse have the power to ultimately agree to a settlement. The mediator will act as a settlement guide and consultant, but you and your spouse have the flexibility to create a settlement agreement that works for both of you. This is in stark contrast to litigating your divorce in court. If you decide to take your divorce to court, you will be at the mercy of the court in terms of scheduling and the parameters of a divorce agreement.
Mediation Benefit – Mediators Help Maintain Focus on Achieving a Successful Outcome
During mediation, in most cases, you are not stuck in a room with your spouse and their attorney, and a professional and skilled mediator will always be in the room who is goal-oriented and solution-focused. If you and your spouse run into difficulties discussing a particular issue, or you are close to reaching a resolution to an issue and just need a fresh perspective to achieve finality, the mediator is there to help. They can assist with developing creative solutions for your divorce issues and disputes that work well for both you and your spouse.
Mediators can do this because they have an open perspective and can assess both sides in an unbiased, objective manner. A mediator can also help you see situations from your spouse’s perspective, which oftentimes leads to settlement much faster than more combative approaches to a divorce, like litigation. Since mediators are not distracted or influenced by courtroom ploys and “showboating”, then can help achieve a resolution in an effective and efficient manner.
When Traditional Litigation May Be Needed
It is important to note that there are some situations where mediation may not be the best pathway for achieving a divorce resolution. Those situations include the following:
- Your spouse is incapacitated.
- You fear for your safety or there’s domestic violence.
- You have reason to believe your spouse is hiding assets.
- Your spouse is unwilling to negotiate and compromise.