What Is Mediation? - FamilyEducation

What Is Mediation?

Here's an explanation of divorce mediation and what a mediator does.

In mediation, you and your spouse settle the issues of your divorce with the help of a mediator, who could be a social worker or an attorney. Sometimes, a social worker and attorney pair up to help the divorcing couple. The mediator has multiple tasks, including the following:

Divorce Dictionary

Divorce mediation is a process whereby a neutral person—the mediator, who is usually a lawyer or social worker—works with the divorcing couple towards reaching a settlement agreement.

  • Hearing the issues
  • Understanding the personalities
  • Explaining the divorce laws that form the necessary background to the mediation sessions
  • Facilitating discussions
  • Suggesting solutions to disputed issues
  • Bringing the parties to a settlement agreement

A deft mediator will be able to handle two individuals who have been a couple, sleuth out the dynamics of their marital relationship, and cleverly bring them beyond their impasse towards a final resolution of all issues that must be resolved in order to compose a settlement agreement. This process takes more than one session. How long the process takes depends on how willing the parties are to compromise to finalize a settlement. If one person will not budge in his or her position, the mediator will have to use all his or her resources to break down the barriers to compromise. This may be futile in the end; but, if the couple is motivated to settle the case without litigation, eventually the mediator can help bring about compromise.

Say you want to keep the house and have primary custody of the children, but your spouse wants you to sell the house, split the sales proceeds, and have joint custody. There is a major challenge. The couple has a long way to go to reach an agreement. It's the mediator's job to find a practical solution that both parties can accept. At some point, the mediator will explain the laws of the state regarding these issues and how a court might likely rule. Then it is up to the parties to decide if they can live with the state's idea of a resolution or if they are willing to modify their respective positions to reach a solution they both prefer.

Once an agreement is reached, each spouse brings the agreement to his or her own attorney for review. If the lawyers find no questions or problems with the document, one of the attorneys drafts the requisite paperwork for approval by the parties. If everyone is in accord, the settlement agreement is then submitted to the court for the judge to sign. Once it is entered into the court's records, it is finalized.