Simply put, mediation is not appropriate for all divorces. But for divorces in which mediation is an option, mediation provides a cost-effective alternative to litigation and trial.
While it is certainly beneficial that parties agree on all or most issues prior to entering mediation, this is definitely not required for the mediation process. To the contrary, impartially brokering agreements and resolving disputes between parties is the core purpose of a mediator. So, there is no minimum degree of “initial agreement” needed for mediation to be successful. What is more important is that the parties have (and maintain throughout the process) a mutually respectful relationship with each other. The parties must also be ready and willing to communicate maturely, but frankly, about their desires, concerns, and questions pertaining to the divorce. Proceeding with a divorce can be inherently contentious, particularly given the types of hot-button issues involved (e.g., money, kids, property, retirement, etc.). This can naturally lead to moments of tension, which the mediator will work to diffuse, refocusing the parties to the tasks at hand. However, it is ultimately up to the parties to be willing and able to maintain a constructive environment in which focus remains on identification and resolution of all outstanding issues. If you feel this paragraph describes you and your spouse, then divorce mediation may be right for you.