how does mediation work during divorce

What is Divorce Mediation?

Goldberg Jones Divorce, Divorce Process Leave a Comment

When it comes to dissolving a marriage, many people think of intense courtroom trials. That, however, isn’t the only option. Other tools provide alternatives. One of the most popular and effective is divorce mediation.

What is Divorce Mediation?

Mediation is a form of alternate dispute resolution or ADR. As the name implies, this provides a legal path that isn’t litigation. Used in civil suits, including divorce and child custody cases, in mediation, both sides come together in an attempt to settle the matter before them.

It proves especially effective in family law situations. Facilitated by a third party, spouses use this process to reach agreements on divorce, custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, and most other types of cases.

It’s important to note mediation is not legally binding. No decision is forced upon anyone and each party ultimately must accept the terms. The mediator guides and assists but doesn’t pass judgment.

When Does It Work Best?

Because mediation is not legally binding, it works best in situations when divorcing couples are relatively amicable. Or at least when they’re willing and able to play nice long enough to hammer out an agreement.

People also choose mediation because it’s often significantly cheaper, faster, and less stressful than a standard trial.

In fact, many couples try mediation before heading into the courtroom. Instead of sitting in front of a judge, the process essentially boils down to a small number of people working together in an attempt to reach a common goal.

Related Reading: How to File for Divorce in Washington

How to Choose the Best Mediation Style

Within the larger category of mediation exist a number of different approaches. It’s important to pick the best mediation style for you and your case.

You can choose from evaluative mediation, facilitative mediation, and transformative mediation. Each varies in approach and comes with its own unique set of peculiarities.

The best mediation style for you depends a great deal on your circumstances and the specifics of your case. With the differences, there are situations where each may prove to be the ideal fit.

Evaluative Mediation

This approach provides spouses with a clearer understanding of what a trial might look like in their case.

The mediator uses this opportunity to demonstrate how a judge or jury might look at the specifics and even point out flaws in one party’s position.

As evaluative mediation is most similar to an actual trial, it often surfaces in civil suits like divorce. There’s room to work with conflict and former judges or attorneys who can explain the strengths and weaknesses of a particular case often serve as mediators.

In these situations, it’s common for the facilitator to put the spouses in separate rooms and jump back and forth as each side makes offers and counteroffers.

Ultimately, the aim is to meet somewhere in the middle and land on a satisfying resolution for everyone. Of the three approaches, evaluative mediation focuses primarily on the end result. The goal is to reach an agreement and avoid trial rather than spare individual interests and feelings.

If you’re simply looking for a settlement, this may be the best mediation style for you.

Facilitative Mediation

When it comes to this mediation style, the third-party basically plays the role of facilitator. He or she guides spouses through the process, making sure they understand their options and the impact of their choices. Ideally, the end result is a mutually beneficial resolution both parties agree on.

In facilitative mediation, the moderator is more removed. He or she asks questions and steers the proceedings but doesn’t usually interject or make suggestions.

In the end, it falls to the spouses involved to arrive at an agreement on their own accord.

This may be the best mediation style in some instances, especially when the two sides share goals. In high-conflict situations, it may not always be as effective.

Transformative Mediation

This mediation style is most common when, in addition to settling a dispute, the two sides want to address and repair problems in their relationship. While the mediator supports both parties, this strategy aims to get each side to understand the other’s needs and position.

Transformative mediation is similar in style to its facilitative cousin but differs in a few key ways. A newer approach, it’s often looked at as a touchy-feely strategy.

Using this style, the mediator is more of an enabler, helping the two parties to grow and change—to transform.

It primarily focuses on mending fences and repairing a damaged relationship rather than reaching a definite resolution. This can alleviate some of the pressure on clients, but it often leads to a longer process and less tangible results.

A transformative approach is usually the best mediation style when the participants want to preserve or salvage a relationship. If children play a part, this can be useful for parents trying to maintain civility and a future relationship for the sake of their kids.

Related Reading: When is the Best Time to Divorce?

Should You Hire A Lawyer For Mediation?

One reason many couples opt for mediation in divorce is that it doesn’t require legal counsel. Still, hiring a lawyer is worth considering.

This is especially true if your spouse has an attorney as representing yourself can put you at a significant disadvantage. An experienced lawyer accompanies you to sessions and offers advice. And before you sign anything, they also make sure a settlement is fair and fits your needs.

Even if you do hire an attorney to help with mediation, the cost will almost certainly be much less than if you go to court.

Methods of dispute resolution like mediation offer an alternative to courtrooms and trials in divorce. But under that umbrella, you find a number of methods.

Some mediators subscribe to one or the other, while more use a pick-and-choose approach. The best mediation style for your case depends on the specifics of your situation, what you need, and what you hope to get out of the process.

Related Reading: When to Hire a Divorce Lawyer

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