Is Mediation a Good Idea for Your Divorce?

Divorces can be brutal. Even if you and your spouse are trying to end things reasonably, you may still need to go through months of lengthy courtroom procedures, and face rapidly escalating legal fees from your consulting attorneys.

There is, however, a potential alternative option. If you and your spouse are amicable to one another, you could pursue mediation—but is it really a good idea, or is it just a manifestation of wishful thinking?

The Basics of Mediation

Mediation operates as you might expect. You and your spouse will attend one or multiple closed-door meetings with a third-party mediator. Usually, this mediator is a lawyer, but not all lawyers are qualified as mediators, and not all mediators are lawyers (you’ll need to do research before making a decision).

Through a series of talks, you’ll discuss and negotiate how to split assets, how to decide custody, and other issues on the table. Eventually, you’ll come to a compromise you both like, or you’ll continue to disagree and need to take the matter to court.

There are several advantages to mediating:

  • Lower stress. First, since you’ll be mediating with somewhat casual conversations in a comfortable environment, you’ll face much lower stress than if you go through formal legal hurdles and end up in court. It will be lower stress and less emotional for you, your spouse, and especially your children.
  • Faster resolution. Going through a divorce can take months, if not years. The more complex your case, the more time it’s going to take. That can wreak havoc on your daily life, especially since you’re already stressed. You may have to make accommodations for work and childcare throughout the process, but with mediation, you’ll get back to your normal routine faster.
  • Lower costs. Since most mediators charge by the hour, you’ll ultimately end up paying less for mediation than you would with a typical divorce. You won’t be responsible for court fees, either.
  • Better closure. Since the two of you will be working directly together with the assistance of a mediator, chances are higher that you’ll be able to come to a conclusion—and a division of assets—that works out for both of you. You’ll both walk away with a compromise you can agree to, and since you’ll resolve things amicably, you’ll set the stage for much better interactions in the future.

When Mediation Won’t Work

Mediation isn’t a perfect solution, however. While it’s a beneficial and time- and money-saving strategy, it doesn’t work for everyone, or in all situations. For example, you may not be able to pursue mediation if:

  • You’ve faced abuse. If you or your children have been abused, either physically or verbally, mediation may not be for you. You’ll need to act in you and your children’s best interests and, hopefully, be compensated for the damage you’ve endured. It’s much better to have a lawyer specifically on your side for these matters, especially if the abuse has the potential to continue.
  • Your spouse isn’t interested. Not everyone is interested in mediating. If your spouse is adamantly opposed to the idea, you may not be able to persuade them to join you. Unfortunately, mediation isn’t something you can handle by yourself; you’ll need the full cooperation of your spouse if you hope to reach an agreement.
  • You can’t reach an agreement. Just because you and your spouse agree to a mediation at the outset doesn’t guarantee you’ll find a solution that works for you both. Eventually, even well-intended mediation sessions can make it to the courtroom.

Still, the potential value of mediation far outweighs the potential costs of its failure. Unless mediation is completely off the table as an option, it’s worth considering. The first step in mediation is working with your spouse to establish a framework for discussion; you’ll need to mutually decide on a third-party lawyer to handle your case (try looking online), and prepare to talk openly about how to split your assets and/or custody. Mediation may not be fun—but it’s much better than subjecting yourself to weeks of lengthy court battles.