Does Divorce Mediation Work?

When one spouse files for divorce, you likely want to get the process over with as soon as you can. However, the law requires spouses to address and resolve a number of issues before their marriage can be declared legally over, including how to divide marital property, how to share custody of children, and whether one spouse will provide financial support to the other.

When two people are getting divorced, they may not be in the best position to discuss issues productively and compromise. If you cannot agree on one or more issues, the family court may step in and make the decisions for you. This can be a less-than-preferable option for several reasons, including:

  • Trial can involve presenting highly personal and disparaging information in open court
  • Trial can delay a divorce
  • Your legal fees can increase significantly if you need to go to trial
  • The judge will have all of the control over issues that can have a serious impact on your future

While you might not be able to reach an out-of-court agreement, you also may want to avoid trial if possible. You might have heard of divorce mediation, but you might wonder – does mediation really work? Will it work if you are unable to agree thus far?

Is Mediation Right for You?

Mediation is NOT for spouses who are able to agree right from the start. If this were the case in your divorce, there would be no need for mediation at all. Even if you and your spouse seem fairly far apart on certain issues, it might be worth it to give mediation a chance in many situations. After all, mediation is meant to help parties compromise and find a mutually agreeable solution. If it is possible, a skilled mediator can often facilitate conversation and cooperation successfully. Often, mediation can work if the following are true.

You both agree to get divorced.

If your spouse is not even on the same page about the divorce in general, it may be difficult to participate in mediation. If you both can agree that your marriage should end, you might be in a better position to work through mediation. However, a spouse who is trying to hold on to the marriage likely will not be very willing to cooperate on the terms of the divorce.

There was no domestic violence, drug abuse, or mental illness involved.

If your spouse engaged in domestic violence, you might have a protective order out against them. In this situation, it is likely not safe – or legal – for you to sit down together for a mediation session. Even if there was no physical violence, a spouse who engaged in mental or emotional abuse may try to use the same manipulation, humiliation, or put-downs against you during mediation. It is important for each party to come in with genuine intentions and not try to abuse the other party during mediation.

Similarly, if your spouse has a substance abuse problem, mental illness, or a personality disorder such as narcissism, you might not be able to rely on them to honestly participate in the mediation process. People in such situations might have ulterior motives or might be unpredictable and irrational in many situations. This is often not the best recipe for successful mediation.

You are both open about your finances.

Many issues you must resolve in a divorce revolve around the respective financial situations of you and your spouse. In order to reach an agreement, it is important for each spouse to fully understand the finances of the other. It is all too common, however, for one spouse to be significantly more familiar with the financial situation than the other.

If each spouse is willing to be forthcoming and share all of the relevant financial information, they will have all the relevant information to come to an agreement. If one spouse insists on withholding details about their finances, you do not want to agree to any type of settlement in mediation until you uncover what they are hiding.

Mediation is Often Successful

Mediation helps many divorcing spouses avoid the need to go to trial in court. Even if it takes you several sessions to agree on all relevant issues, it can still be better than the time and expense of trial. It is always a good idea to discuss the possibility of mediation with your attorney and explore whether it could work in your situation. You want the right lawyer on your side who can represent you in court should mediation not be the solution in your case.