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What really is Divorce Mediation and who is it for?

December 4, 2013

Mediation is a semi- formal process for resolving conflicts. The parties come together in a comfortable setting with a neutral third party who should be a certified mediator. The mediator is there to facilitate a process whereby the participants can safely discuss their issues and come to an agreement. It can be used in Divorce, Custody, Support and many other situations involving conflict. Mediators take specialized classes to prepare them for different types of mediations such as: family, labor, international, etc. If the parties are ready and suitable, mediation can be a wonderful solution because it allows the individuals to work out an agreement between themselves.

As an alternative to the traditional method of divorce, mediation has pros and cons. The positive attributes are that it is an opportunity for the parties to openly and honestly discuss the matters that brought them to this point in their relationship. It is a chance for them to work through some of the emotions, and to see to the future. It can be a time to make decisions (personal and joint) and to show caring and respect for the other party. With the help – but not legal advice of the mediator–the parties will decide how to divide their property in a way that feels fairest to them. The equitable distribution laws of the State of Pennsylvania, or of any other state do not bind them. If children are involved, the parents and not a stranger get to make the decisions about things such as where their children will live, who they will spend holidays with, how college might be paid for, who will be responsible for taking the children to the doctor, etc.

The cons of mediation are related to the pros. Since the parties do all the work, it is important that they are ready to mediate; that they are open to and trust the process; and that they be somewhat equally situated. If one party wants a resolution, but the other is being “pulled along,” the process is not likely to work. If one party is not trustworthy, or is unlikely to keep a promise made in mediation, the process will fail. If one party has all the power in a relationship, the couple usually is not suitable for mediation. Power in a relationship can be manifested in many ways. It can be economic, it can be emotional, and it can be physical. If there is a power imbalance the mediation could result in an unfair agreement.

Couples may think they want divorce mediation because they have heard it is less contentious and less costly. In the right circumstances this will be true. But as this article points out, mediation is not for everyone. Also, not all mediators are for right for you. Before accepting a case a family mediator should pre-screen the parties to be sure they are ready to do the hard work, to be sure that both parties are coming voluntarily to the mediation and to check for any other issues that might create a power imbalance. Before working with a mediator, parties should as a couple meet with the mediator and decide if that person is someone they feel comfortable with, and is someone whom they trust as competent to handle the issues and emotions that will arise in sessions.

If you are considering mediation, ask yourselves first if you are good candidates for the process, and then look for a certified and experienced mediator.
For more information, on the process you may wish to read this article that walks through the steps

or for some more general information go to .