Understanding What Mediation Can and Cannot Do

- Gary E. Williams

Some divorcing couples fear litigation above all else. They do not want to get drawn into a long, expensive court battle in which a judge reviews every embarrassing detail of their lives and pits ex-spouses against one another as foes. In such cases, spouses may be quick to try mediation as a means of alternative dispute resolution.

If this sounds like your situation, make sure you do not view mediation as a miracle pill to resolve all divorce woes. Divorce mediation addresses some issues very efficiently, but is not designed to resolve other, more contentious issues at all.

What exactly is mediation?

In divorce mediation, a couple works with a neutral mediator who helps them reach agreements about all of the aspects of their divorce. Mediators are often not attorneys, but are always exceptionally familiar with family law. There are numerous online resources you can use to familiarize yourself with the more detailed concepts of mediation.

There are many pluses to mediation.

  • It is less expensive than traditional divorce.
  • Mediation often leaves divorced spouses on amicable terms, and is often less of a burden on children.
  • It keeps control of the divorce agreement in the hands of the spouses, not the judge.

What mediation cannot do

There are many situations, however, where mediation is less desirable.

  • Mediation is often not a viable option in cases involving spousal abuse and domestic violence.
  • If one spouse hides assets from the other, mediation is less likely than litigation to uncover those assets. All financial income is only disclosed voluntarily in mediation.
  • If mediation fails, the couple must begin the entire divorce procedure over again from square one.
  • If one spouse has a propensity for negative behavior such as alcohol or drug abuse, mediation could fuel the negative emotions driving that behavior.

Also, if the mediator is less experienced, even a seemingly successful mediation can result in a poorly drafted or unenforceable agreement that can be challenged down the road. Contact us at (727) 531-8737.