By Divorce.com staff
Updated Mar 07, 2023
Divorce mediation is an incredibly helpful tool for couples who want to avoid dragging their divorce through the court. When possible, mediation can help couples find common ground and create an outcome they’re both happy with. In many cases, mediation is worth a try.
There are a few scenarios where mediation is unlikely to help. The more complicated the situation surrounding the divorce becomes, the more likely it is that working with a lawyer is the only viable solution. Before you pursue divorce mediation, here’s what you need to consider.
What Is Divorce Mediation?
Divorce mediation is the process of ironing out small disagreements before a divorce. When couples can’t find a solution they’re both happy with, they can have a mediation session. A mediator will listen to both sides and offer possible solutions to the disagreement. Ultimately, the couple will decide the solution they’d like to use.
How Long Does Divorce Mediation Usually Take?
The duration of divorce mediation depends on the number of issues a couple wants to mediate, as well as the complexity of those issues. If you only have a few small things to work out, you can complete mediation in a session or two. If you have a lot to go over, it could take several months of weekly mediation sessions.
Mediation sessions can last anywhere from one hour to eight hours. Some couples only need one lengthy mediation session to resolve their differences. You could technically complete mediation in a single day.
Do Couples Reconcile During Divorce Mediation?
The mediator’s role isn’t to help couples reconcile. It’s to help them create an agreement for a fair divorce. In rare cases, couples discuss their issues in mediation and see their communication improving.
They may choose to attempt to repair their relationship. It’s not the role of the mediator to facilitate reconciliation. Couples who change their mind about divorce should see a couple’s counselor to help repair their marriage.
What Are the Advantages of Divorce Mediation?
Divorce mediation is far less expensive than a long, drawn-court court divorce with lawyers. It’s not unusual for each party to spend around $10,000 on lawyer’s fees during a divorce. With mediation, you’re only paying a reasonable hourly mediation fee.
Mediation also empowers couples to decide what’s best for themselves. When lawyers and the court become involved, the judge will make final determinations in the divorce. There’s always the possibility that both parties will walk away unhappy with the outcome. With mediation, you have a chance to work together to find an outcome you can both live with.
Divorce mediation is far less stressful and emotionally taxing than running your divorce through court. You can keep matters discrete. You can work on your own schedule, so you’ll never need to miss work or hire a babysitter. You’ll be introducing far less tension into your family’s life when you choose to handle your divorce through excellent communication in mediation sessions.
What Are the Disadvantages of Divorce Mediation?
Divorce mediation won’t work for couples with significant disagreements. A mediator can help you meet in the middle. If your desires are in completely opposite directions, you’ll have a tough time finding a middle ground.
Your mediator’s role isn’t to provide you with legal advice. The mediator works for both of you, rather than just one of you. In addition to impartiality, mediators aren’t always lawyers. They can’t provide the same services a lawyer would provide.
When Is Divorce Mediation Not a Good Choice?
Divorce mediation is an excellent choice for couples who can communicate with each other. If you and your partner get along reasonably well, you should always attempt mediation first. If you and your partner have a tense relationship, mediation may not be the best way to approach your divorce.
1. The Situation Is Time-Sensitive
Mediation is often much faster than a court divorce process, but there could be instances where mediation takes longer than expected. If your spouse refuses to yield on something critically important, like a child support agreement that you need to keep a roof over your family’s head, you may need to go to court.
2. One or Both Parties Hold a Grudge
People usually don’t get divorced because they find that they enjoy being best friends much better than they enjoy being married. There’s usually a catalyst event, or a culmination of events, that may leave lingering bitter feelings. If one or both of you are still grappling with a grudge, you might find your approach to conflict resolution is more spiteful than productive.
Before you begin mediation, you need to work on your communication skills. At the very least, you need to be willing to set the past aside long enough to complete an amicable divorce. If you can’t do that, you won’t get anywhere with mediation.
3. One Party Refuses To Cooperate
Both parties need to be equally involved in mediation. If one party refuses to communicate with the mediator, the sessions won’t go anywhere.
You need the power of the court to make the other party compliant. If they still refuse to comply, the judge can set forth meaningful consequences or make unilateral decisions without the other party’s cooperation.
4. There Are Secrets Involved
Many people heavily value their privacy. Privacy can be extremely important during a divorce. If one or both of you maintains a high profile in your community, you probably want to utilize as much discretion as possible during your divorce.
If there are things you don’t want anyone to know, you can’t tell them to a mediator. Mediators aren’t often subject to “attorney-client privilege” rules. If asked about a particular situation by a qualified authority, they’re obligated to be honest. It may not be wise to use a divorce mediator if doing so may put you in a precarious situation.
5. One or Both Parties Are Unaware of Their Assets and Debts
Mediation is a great option when you and your spouse are fully aware of each other’s assets and debts. This won’t always be the case, especially if you’ve been estranged from your spouse for a while. Some couples never fully become financially transparent with each other.
If someone has undisclosed assets or debts, the mediator cannot compel them to produce financial information. Mediation only works when both parties are willing to be upfront about their finances.
6. There Is a History of Deception in the Relationship
If your partner has a history of lying about important things, you don’t have a good reason to trust anything they say in mediation. You’ll have to take it at face value.
Your mediator will have no legal power to require disclosure. The only thing that can force your partner to be honest is the court.
7. There Is a History of Domestic Violence
If there is a history of domestic violence, you might feel as though mediation is a better situation because it’s less confrontational. This is far from the truth. Your partner may manipulate the situation or intimidate you into agreeing to divorce stipulations that you aren’t comfortable with.
If you’re in a relationship impacted by domestic violence or intimate partner abuse, do not serve your partner with divorce papers. Do not request a divorce. Immediately seek legal advice from a qualified professional experienced in helping people living in unsafe situations.
These resources are often free. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7. Call or live chat with someone whenever you feel safe to do so, even if it’s in the middle of the night.
The hotline also works to assist people who have been abusive to their partners. If you feel that may be you, the hotline can provide you with resources to get help. They’re completely judgment free.