Mediation is an increasingly popular way to resolve legal disputes, as it tends to be quicker and less expensive than going to court. It also helps keep information private and allows the parties to have control over their outcomes, rather than leaving matters up to a judge.
Mediation is particularly well-suited for divorce and family law issues because it tends to reduce the level of acrimony in legal disputes and the lingering resentments afterward. This is especially important in cases involving parents who will continue to work together as they share custody of their children.
However, that doesn’t mean that mediation is right for every person or every divorce. In this blog post, we will discuss topics to consider before deciding if mediation is right for your divorce.
First, let’s define what we mean when we talk about mediation.
Mediation is a form of negotiation guided by a neutral third party known as a mediator. The mediator does not render a judgment or make decisions for the parties, but rather facilitates the discussion so that the parties can reach an agreement on their own, with the help of their lawyers.
Many who have gone through the process say that the mediator helped them cut through the adversarial nature of legal disputes and reach agreement more quickly than they would have in a different type of negotiation.
When mediation is not the right option
Mediators are trained in negotiation techniques and in staying neutral. They’re also trained in spotting dynamics that could make it difficult or impossible to reach a fair resolution.
One such dynamic is unequal wealth or power. If one spouse is much wealthier or socially prominent than the other, it can make it difficult for the two sides to negotiate on an even footing.
But these dynamics are more than a matter of social prestige or dollars in bank. Sometimes one party has a manipulative or domineering personality that can interfere with a fair negotiation.
Likewise, mediation will not work if there is any history of abuse or domestic violence between the spouses.
Mediators are taught to watch out for these warning signs, but no one knows the truth of a marriage better than the spouses yourself. If you are trying to decide whether to pursue mediation in your divorce, ask yourself whether something in the dynamic between you and your spouse will make it impossible for you to negotiate fairly.
This is a matter of psychology as much as it is of law, and so it can help to get second opinions from friends, family and professionals.
When you read about the advantages of mediation, it sounds tempting to save time and money, but those should not necessarily be your top priorities. Your goal is to reach a settlement that will respect your rights, protect your children and prepare you for your independent life. If mediation is the best way to reach that goal, that’s great. If you think it’s probably not, then it’s time to learn about your other options.