Ending a marriage can burden one or both spouses with extreme stress. This stress often leads one or both parties to take an unreasonable position on one or more critical issues, such as child custody or property division. Our state’s courts are now using mediation to help people deal with this important change in their lives without developing a chronic hatred for the ex-partner and without engaging in wasteful litigation.
Mediation uses a trained third person to meet with the divorcing couple, explore their differences and suggest ways to resolve the disagreement. Mediators are trained in the techniques of mediation, such as listening carefully, suggesting options and helping one or both parties understand how a solution could help both of them. Most mediators charge an hourly fee that is split by the parties.
The mediation process begins by each party (or that party’s attorney) submitting a written statement of how they each view the issues in the divorce. The parties will then meet with the mediator for a general discussion of the issues and of potential resolutions. The mediator may then meet privately with each party for a candid discussion of solutions. The mediation session may adjourn to give one or both parties the opportunity to submit additional information. If the parties are nearing agreement, the mediator will prepare a written agreement that embodies the terms of the agreement. If the parties reach a final agreement, they will sign the mediation agreement and that becomes part of the court’s order divorcing the couple.
Occasionally, the gulf between the divorcing spouses is too wide to be closed by mediation. In such cases, the parties are left to their own devices, which often means a bitter court trial. A mediator cannot order either party to do anything that the party is unwilling to do. However, a mediator can often suggest alternatives that neither party previously considered or these suggestions can convert what may have initially appeared to be a bitter divorce into a mutually agreeable resolution.