What Does a Divorce Mediator Do and Not Do?
Divorce mediation is an increasingly popular alternative to traditional litigation that allows couples to resolve the terms and conditions of their divorce without having to go to court. When successful, mediation saves couples time and money by allowing them to sidestep a court proceeding and settle the divorce on their own. There is a lot of misunderstanding, however, about how the mediation process works and the role of the mediator.
As a divorce mediator, my job is to help guide the spouses toward a peaceable and workable settlement. In this article, I will explain in further detail what a divorce mediator does and does not do, so you have a better understanding of what to expect if you decide to mediate your divorce.
7 Things a Divorce Mediator Does
1. Facilitate the Mediation Process
Mediators are in charge of the process, and we facilitate a discussion between the spouses. We are neutral, third-party participants who have no vested interest in the outcome.
2. Educate Couples
A major part of a mediator’s job is to educate participants on the details of the process, how the sessions are going to work, and how couples can get the most out of it.
3. Help Couples Develop Solutions
Having been a divorce mediator for many years, I have worked with countless couples and dealt with just about every situation imaginable. Drawing on this experience, I am able to help couples come up with solutions that they may not have considered or may not even be aware of. In many cases, we are able to come up with innovative and creative solutions to help address individual circumstances, a result that is far less likely in a court setting.
4. Create a Safe Environment
The divorce mediator is there to create a safe environment where each participant can feel comfortable during each session. The sessions can be done in-person or remotely depending on the preferences of the spouses. And in some cases, spouses can be in different rooms during mediation with the mediator going back and forth between them. This process is known as caucusing.
5. Encourage Dialogue
As the facilitator, the mediator encourages dialogue between the spouses. By getting everything out on the table, we can more quickly move the discussion toward settlement options.
6. Keep Couples Focused on the Future
Sometimes, discussions can get off track and people can start heading down rabbit trails. The mediator keeps the couples focused on the big picture and what they want in the future, which helps get the discussion back on track.
7. Help Couples Focus on Children and Family
In addition to successfully resolving the divorce, one of the major goals of mediation is to work on the settlement in a civil and cooperative manner for the sake of the children (if there are children involved) and to help preserve delicate family relationships for the long-term.
4 Things a Divorce Mediator Does NOT Do
1. Make Decisions
A divorce mediator is not a judge, and they have no authority to make decisions on behalf of either spouse. Mediation is a voluntary process, and no settlement can become legally binding unless both spouses agree to it.
2. Provide Legal Advice
The mediator is not a legal representative for any of the participants, and they are not there to provide legal advice. Spouses are free to retain their own legal counsel if they feel the need to, but you do not need an attorney in order to enter into divorce mediation.
3. Serve as Referees
Mediators are not there to referee conflicts between the spouses. As we discussed earlier, the goal of mediation is to settle the terms and conditions of the divorce. Although venting frustrations is appropriate at times during the sessions, participants are expected to be civil and to enter into the process in good faith.
4. Share Details of the Mediation Sessions
Mediation is a confidential process, and everything that is discussed during the sessions stays between the participants. The mediator will never share any of the session details with the court or anyone else.