Success of divorce mediation often depends on attitude

A couple's approach to divorce—and one another—is often the key to whether mediation is successful or not.

Mediation often works when couples can put emotional issues aside

For many, the image of the "typical" divorce is almost a cliché: couples fighting, court cases dragging on forever, and children often caught in the middle of an emotional tug-o-war between their parents. However, not all divorces have to be the emotionally and financially draining experiences they are often portrayed as. Alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation and arbitration, can help divorcing couples keep the terms of their divorce in their own hands rather than in the hands of a judge. These alternative approaches are often highly beneficial, as U.S. News & World Report notes, but they can only succeed if certain conditions are met.

When mediation works

Mediation usually works when both spouses have already agreed on most of the terms of their divorce, such as property division, spousal support, and child custody. Some outstanding issues may still remain that require the help of a neutral third-party mediator to resolve. Likewise, a mediator may come into the picture to make sure that any agreement that the couple has already reached is actually legally enforceable.

Mediation requires a great deal of maturity and, often, self-restraint. In almost any divorce, there is certain to be a degree of emotional tension and resentment between the parties, but such emotions need to be put to the side in mediation. Overcoming these emotional holdups is especially important in cases involving children, since successful mediation can protect children from the trauma of a contentious court battle.

When mediation doesn't work

As Forbes notes, while mediation is often presented as a solution for almost any divorce, the truth is that there are plenty of instances where a divorcing couple would be better of going through litigation. Again, the main issue is one of attitude. If the two parties simply do not trust one another, then a mediated divorce agreement that both parties are satisfied with is unlikely. Mistrust can lead to accusations that one is being deceptive about assets, for example. Whether such accusations are true or not, they are often sufficient to prevent mediation from succeeding.

Anybody considering mediation should also be honest with themselves. While mediation can save time and money, for example, it can also prove ineffective if one feels pressured into signing an agreement by a domineering ex-spouse. Coming to the mediation table as equals is absolutely paramount for this approach to succeed, otherwise a court may be able to offer greater protection to potentially vulnerable parties.

Exploring the options

Choosing whether to opt for mediation, litigation, or another divorce approach is an important decision that should not be taken lightly. Talking to a family law attorney who is experienced in a variety of different approaches to divorce can be of immense help. Such an attorney can provide anybody in the midst of a divorce with a clear understanding of what options are available so they can move forward with confidence.

Keywords: divorce, litigation, mediation