Untangling Lives: The Divorce Mediation Process

Untangling Lives: The Divorce Mediation Process by Susan Ingram

{3:48 minutes to read}

Divorce mediation, as opposed to a contested divorce (in which each spouse hires an attorney and fights it out through the court system), is often a better choice for couples. When a couple decides to divorce, they need to begin the process of “disentangling” from each other. They can either approach this task in a humane and constructive way (which mediation supports), or they can let it degenerate into increased anger and animosity (which litigation often results in).

Mediation provides an approach and structure that supports this untangling of the couple’s life in a “kinder” and more efficacious manner. Ultimately, the results are much better for the couple, and if they have children, for their kids.

In mediation, the couple, with the help of their mediator, discusses all issues together. And both of them ultimately make all decisions. In litigation, the opposite is true—their lawyers take over the negotiation process, and important decisions end up being made by their lawyers and the judge.

Below are the 3 major areas in which mediation supports couples in separating their lives and moving forward.

Untangling Finances

At the beginning of a mediation, I have each of the partners do separate, post-separation budgets, and then discuss them together. This helps both partners understand how they will fare financially going forward. Additionally, all assets and liabilities are reviewed together, and decisions are made based upon these discussions.

Contrast this approach with litigation in which each partner’s attorney is only interested in getting the most for his or her client, and there is no common conversation between the parties to deal with the realities of the situation.

Untangling Emotions

Certainly strong emotions can be present, whether the couple has chosen the route of mediation or litigation. In mediation, though, the couple is meeting together with the mediator facilitating the process. Although conversations with a couple can be challenging, especially in the beginning, through this process most couples learn to communicate in a better and more constructive manner.

In litigation, there is no opportunity for such a shift. The win-lose approach of litigation only leads to further aggravation of the animosities between the couple.

Untangling Parenting Issues

The mediation process can be especially supportive to parents with children. Topics such as parenting plans, holiday schedules, etc. are discussed with both partners together in the same room. The couple also has the opportunity to test out one or more parenting plans while they are going through the mediation process. Thus, they can fine-tune their ultimate choices.

This same opportunity for working together does not present itself in litigation. Typically each is trying to demonstrate why they are the better parent, and why the other parent is inadequate or worse. In highly contested cases, forensic psychologists and others may be brought in. If the children become the objects of bitter dispute, or worse, are dragged into the litigation, they may suffer serious emotional and psychological trauma.

So….which process do you think is better?

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