A divorce is nearly always a stressful time for both parties as well as for the children. Often, the parties are not civil to one another, have stopped communicating or only express themselves to each other in anger. One party may have started the divorce process by serving the other with legal documents, which may fuel the flames of resentment and result in retaliation.


For many of these couples, a resolution of issues regarding property division, possible alimony, allegations of misconduct and child custody seem unlikely short of costly litigation and trial. Although their poor attitudes and unwillingness to work toward a settlement may appear likely to be headed for costly litigation, alternative dispute resolution methods work well in many of these seemingly intractable situations. It is usually a less expensive process than litigation since the unresolved issues can be worked out within a few hours or a few meetings in many cases and lead to an agreed separation agreement and an uncontested affair.


What is Mediation?


Mediation is simply a meeting with a neutral third party who works with the couple to discuss their issues and to reach a reasonable compromise or solution. The mediator should be someone who practices, or has practiced, domestic law and can explain, if asked, the legal ramifications of any decision or choice. Any statements made during the mediation process are confidential and are not to be used in a hearing or other judicial proceeding. Each party must sign a written agreement to mediate before going forward.


How Does Mediation Work?


A mediator can meet jointly with the parties or alone if there is too much animosity. Each party is given the opportunity to explain the disputed issues and their positions. The mediator notes their concerns, outlines the issues and what they hope to resolve along with any areas of agreement.


The mediator can then suggest options, which may involve a give-and-take approach where one party gives up something in return for a benefit. Most mediations last a couple of hours per session so as not to pressure anyone. If there are options suggested or contemplated, a party should consider consulting with their divorce lawyer or financial advisor in the interim. If you do not have a divorce attorney at this time, it is best to consult with one before you enter into any written agreements such as the separation agreement.


A mediation leaves the choices in your hands rather than in the court. It fosters communication and problem solving and reduces hostility between the parties in many cases. Although mediation is not counseling, it creates a productive process where the parties can air out their differences and listen to an independent party who is trained to find common ground and help the couple agree on the issues despite the anger and frustration they may have brought to the negotiating table.


Studies on mediation indicate that couples who work out their differences through mediation are more than three times as likely to adhere to the terms of the agreement than those who have been divorced through the adversarial process.


Doug Lovenberg is a Boston divorce lawyer who understands that the adversarial nature of a divorce is not always the right approach. He can help you understand the mediation process and get you involved while advising you on the legal ramifications of any possible options or choices. Call Doug Lovenberg today for all of your divorce or domestic law questions.