Divorce mediation is a confidential and voluntary method of resolving conflict between two people who are in the process of ending their marriage. Mediation takes the dispute out of the courtroom and moves to a private location where the spouses can discuss their differences. Under the guidance of a third party, the mediator, the spouses will work out a mutually agreeable settlement for as many issues as possible. Both parties then sign a document listing the agreed terms. That document is filed with the court and is used for the judge’s final divorce orders. If the couple settles all outstanding issues, then their divorce can be finalized with no court appearance at all.
The mediated divorce process usually earns substantial praise from its participants. By avoiding the long backlogs in family law courts, divorce mediation provides results quickly. Almost always, mediation is cheaper than a litigated divorce, because the savings from reducing legal fees and court costs more than make up for the mediator’s fee.
Is divorce mediation too good to be true?
Of course, some people naturally are disposed to look for the downside of any innovation. Some critics have turned against divorce mediation for exactly the reasons that it has been attractive to so many couples. For the most part, these criticisms center around three charges:
- “Divorce mediation is too easy,” critics say. “It makes divorce seem so painless and simple that it hurts the institution of marriage. Mediation is making marriages disposable.”
- “Mediation speeds up the divorce process too much. A slower pace would allow a couple time to reflect on what they’re doing and maybe work toward reconciliation.”
- “Divorce mediation is fundamentally wasteful. If you can get along with your spouse well enough to negotiate the details of your divorce, then you don’t really need a stranger to act as a referee. Fire the mediator, file your own no-fault divorce, and save money.”
In defense of divorce mediation
We have found the attacks against mediator-assisted divorce to be largely mistaken. It’s worth noting that a lot of these claims come from high-priced divorce attorneys whose livelihood is being threatened by the rising popularity of divorce mediation.
When we hear criticism of mediation, we like to point out the following facts:
- Claims that mediation rushes the divorce process are just silly. The pace of mediation is under complete control of the clients, who can schedule their sessions whenever they like—months apart, if that arrangement suits them best. Mediation offers a faster pace for people who don’t want their cases tied up in the courts for 18 to 30 months.
- Mediation doesn’t make divorce easy. Divorce is hard. It involves making painful decisions no matter how it’s done. But mediation can avoid the most horrible aspects of litigated courtroom divorces.
- Divorce is a last resort, no matter how you look at it. Our clients come to us because their marriages have “irretrievably broken down.” On that basis, it’s hard to imagine that any pathway to divorce—through litigation or through the courts—would promote reconciliation.
- Divorce mediation isn’t marriage counseling. It’s not intended to help the couple reconcile. However, if there is still a chance of recovering the marriage, it seems more likely to come about from a process that encourages the spouses to cooperate and arrive at joint decisions, rather than a from the winner-take-all process of divorce litigation.
- Mediation offers no barrier to reconciliation, either. If the spouses wish to try to work out their differences through couples therapy, that doesn’t conflict with divorce mediation. Mediation sessions can be suspended or canceled if the partners decide they are not ready to end their marriage.
- A mediator is necessary to drive the process. The idea that the couple can dispense with a neutral moderator with special training in conflict resolution is absurd. Almost every client tells us that the presence of the mediator was essential to keeping the process focused on building creative solutions rather than reviewing past grievances.
- Mediation is often the cheapest workable alternative. Only in extraordinary circumstances can couples handle a divorce on their own. The litigation alternative eats up the family assets quickly in attorney fees and court costs. Mediation conserves family wealth in a prudent way.
Contact Divorce Done Right for your mediation solution
With offices in Pennsylvania, Florida, Delaware, and New Jersey, the certified family law mediators of Divorce Done Right can provide mediators and mediation services for couples looking to avoid the drama and heartache of litigation. We allow both sides a voice in the mediation settlement process and strive to meet the goals that the spouses set for themselves at the first session. When you’re ready to move forward with a rational approach to getting your life back in order, call (866) 337-4448 to get your questions answered.